With the imprisonment of Wang Xiang Wei Mao, the sensational assassination case of the Crown Prince came to a temporary end. Wei Zhao also returned Tuoba Xianhan to Wei Chongrong, allowing him to go back to Qingjia without having to be separated from Huo Yingying.
Although Wei Chongrong had been exchanging letters with Wei Zhao, there were many things he couldn’t conveniently say in the letter, and the distance between Yujing and Qingjia was thousands of li, so it would take more than ten days to travel by horseback. Everything could only be said roughly, and all the details had to be omitted.
Therefore, Wei Chongrong had a lot to ask Tuoba Xianhan when he saw him, and he didn’t even give him and Huo Yingying a chance to say hello before dragging him straight to his study, leaving Jun Hua and Huo Yingying to look at each other.
With a twinkle in his eye, Jun Hua asked Huo Yingying, “Sister Huo, should we follow?” There shouldn’t be anything in Wei Chongrong and Tuoba Xianhan’s conversation that they couldn’t hear, right?
Huo Yingying blinked and nodded gently, “Why not? Of course we are going to.” She had been scared every day for over a month since she left Yujing. Now Xianhan returned, and before she could see clearly whether he had gained or lost weight, the whole person was taken away by Wei Chongrong.
Jun Hua and Huo Yingying were both action-oriented and wouldn’t delay in doing anything. After glancing at each other, they moved towards Wei Chongrong’s study, intending to find out what they were talking about.
When they arrived outside the study, Jun Hua and Huo Yingying had a small dispute about where to hide. Jun Hua felt that the roof was an open space and even if they were discovered, they could escape in time. Huo Yingying felt that the next room was safer and they could hear more clearly.
Before they could unite their opinions, Wei Chongrong coughed lightly in the study and said unhurriedly, “Huaixi, Yingying, since you are here, why won’t you come in?” Discussing where to hide and eavesdrop in voices he could hear, were they teasing him?
Hearing Wei Chongrong say this, Jun Hua nonchalantly pushed the door open, “Why didn’t you say earlier that we could enter?”
Wei Chongrong rolled his eyes speechlessly and said good-naturedly, “I didn’t say you weren’t allowed to follow either, did I?”
Huo Yingying wisely said nothing, reducing her sense of presence. She moved silently to Tuoba Xianhan’s side and examined his face, finding that it wasn’t much different from when they parted a month or so ago.
Tuoba Xianhan looked at Huo Yingying and hooked his lips, with a light smile in his eyes. He seemed to be in a good mood.
Wei Chongrong sat on the chair behind the writing desk, pulled Jun Hua’s hand and made him sit down on the armrest, continuing the previous conversation, “Xianhan, are you sure you didn’t find anything unusual about Wang Zhao at all?”
Tuoba Xianhan nodded, his expression very serious: “Answering Master Shizi, there is indeed nothing, Wang Zhao is hanging out at the Ministry of Rites, and apart from going to the Ministry of Rites for his daily errands, he just stays in his residence, rarely dealing with the courtiers and not very social.”
“How could it be like this?” Wei Chongrong held one of Jun Hua’s hands and played with his fingers while muttering to himself, “He doesn’t contact anyone? Including people from Gong Yue’s residence?” Wangfei Zhao was from the family of Gong Yue, and it was the same as if someone from the Shangguan family directly stepped in.
Tuoba Xianhan shook his head, with a slightly puzzled look on his face: “In the month and a half that I have been watching Wang Zhao’s residence, I have never seen any private meetings between Wang Zhao and people from Gong Yue’s mansion. However, the relationship between Wang Zhao and Wangfei Zhao is extremely bad. Not to mention sleeping in separate rooms at night, even during the day they seldom see each other. Once they see each other, they will easily quarrel. Any trivial matter can become a trigger. An exemplary couple with a grudge.”
“Is that so?” Wei Chongrong wondered. Was it that all the girls from the Shangguan family were unsuitable to marry into the imperial family?
In the previous life, Wei Yang’s empress Shangguan Yan was also Shangguan Xuan’s daughter, the younger sister of the current Wangfei Zhao Shangguan Cha. She and Wei Yang also lived a hell of a life, not giving the palace a moment of peace. Shangguan Yan was eventually abolished by Wei Yang after the Shangguan family was overthrown.
However, it was understandable to Wei Chongrong why Wei Yang and Shangguan Yan couldn’t get along. Shangguan Xuan controlled the court and usurped Wei Yang’s power. Wei Yang hated this family and wouldn’t like Shangguan Xuan’s daughter to be the empress, let alone hope that Shangguan Yan would give birth to a son who would inherit the throne later.
But there was no such reason for Wei Lan and Shangguan Cha. Shangguan Xuan was a very discerning man who knew what to do in what circumstances. He was the unbeatable powerful minister in the Taiping era, but in the Tai’an era, he was the most appreciated and capable official of Wei Ming.
Whether or not Wei Lan had ambitions to ascend the throne, having a father-in-law like Shangguan Xuan, who was favoured by the emperor, was a great help. If he really didn’t like Shangguan Cha, it wasn’t impossible to accept a concubine. Why did he need to quarrel with his own Wangfei?
Tuoba Xianhan thought for a while, and then added: “Although Wang Zhao and his wife love to quarrel, they are not as noisy as the people in the market. Most of the time it’s Wangfei Zhao who says some mean things, and Wang Zhao stares at her coldly, and then flings his sleeves and leaves.”
When Wei Chongrong frowned and didn’t speak, Huo Yingying suddenly interjected, “That’s why they’re Wang and Wangfei, unlike us, who can chop each other with swords at the slightest disagreement.” In her tone, there was some inexplicable appreciation.
Inspired by her words, Jun Hua couldn’t help but get distracted and think about what it would be like if he and Wei Chongrong quarrelled. In the end, he concluded that they couldn’t quarrel at all, because Wei Chongrong wouldn’t quarrel with him, and if he was angry, he would just ignore him.
Wei Chongrong pondered for a moment and asked, “Xianhan, after you left the capital, did Father continue to send someone to keep an eye on Wang Zhao?”
Tuoba Xianhan nodded and said, “Naturally, Wang Qin has been extremely uneasy about Wang Zhao. In addition, Wang Qin told me to tell Master Shizi to prepare for your return to the capital as soon as possible, as Hou Wu’an will be coming to Qingjia in the near future.”
Wei Chongrong didn’t understand the meaning of that and said blankly, “Why is this? Father didn’t mention it before.”
Tuoba Xianhan bowed and said, “The Empress Dowager is old and her health is already bad, and after the assassination of the Crown Prince, she is even more devastated and is getting worse. Wang Qin is very worried…”
Wei Chongrong had an epiphany: “I understand.” The Crown Prince was dead, but Wei Chongrong was of the same generation and was stationed at the border, so not returning to the capital was understandable. The Empress Dowager was different, this was his grandmother, he had to go back in any case. Instead of panicking at the last minute, it was better to prepare well in advance.
The Empress Dowager was in her seventies and her physical decline was inevitable. Wei Xuan was her eldest grandson and her favourite since he was a child, and now he had left ahead of her. The degree of her grief was no less than that of Wei Ming and Jun Feili. Her age was there, and it was really hard to say what the result would be.
Half a month later, Huo Qingyang arrived in Qingjia. He didn’t come alone, he also brought Huo Qingyue and Huo Feifei.
Wei Chongrong’s jaw dropped and he said, “Hou Wu’an, what does Father mean?” The conditions in Qingjia were vastly different from those in Yujing, and his little sister had grown up well-clothed and well-fed, so how could she have been sent here by Wei Zhao?
Huo Qingyang’s face looked a little heavy, and he pondered for a moment before answering, “His Highness is worried that there will be a change in Yujing, so…”
“A change in Yujing? What kind of change?” Wei Chongrong frowned and said, still extending his hands towards Huo Feifei.
Nearly two years without seeing each other, Huo Feifei had long ago forgotten her brother. She stared at Wei Chongrong, fiercely turned away and hugged Huo Qingyang’s neck tightly, her wary expression making Wei Chongrong a little sad. What a heartless little thing!
Abruptly, as if he thought of something, he asked with trembling lips, “Is Uncle Emperor…”
The Empress Dowager’s death, although it was a national mourning, had no impact on the country. The change that could make Wei Zhao feel that Qingjia was safer than Yujing couldn’t be related to the Empress Dowager. At the moment, the Crown Prince was undecided. If something happened to Wei Ming, the consequences would be unimaginable.
Huo Qingyang nodded quietly: “His Majesty’s health has always been what can only be described as average, and he has been busy with state affairs during the years on the throne, never slacking off. Fortunately the Crown Prince was capable and shared the burden of government affairs with His Majesty. When the Crown Prince was assassinated by another of His Majesty’s sons, His Majesty was devastated, as you can imagine. Then came the Empress Dowager’s illness. She can be gone at any time, and you know that His Majesty is a man of the utmost filial piety… Wang Lu’s Lord Consort has checked His Majesty’s pulse and said that his heart is depressed, and if he can’t relax his mind, it will be extremely dangerous… “
Wei Chongrong’s eyebrows were deeply furrowed. With his understanding of Wei Ming’s character, if the Empress Dowager couldn’t hold on, not being depressed was impossible. If Wei Ming needed to have a successor, there was only Wei Lan, the emperor’s son.
Huo Feifei turned her head at some point and saw Wei Chongrong frowning, so she stretched out her small, fleshy hand and gently smoothed his brow.
Looking at the little girl’s carefree expression, Wei Chongrong was inexplicably a little envious. How wonderful it would be if people never had to grow up.
However, such a thought was short-lived. Wei Chongrong then remembered his childhood vow. He wanted to grow up quickly, he wanted to protect his father. He settled his mind and said with a solemn look, “In that case, I will leave tomorrow and hurry back to the capital as soon as possible.”
When Jun Hua heard that Wei Chongrong was going back to Yujing, he started packing his bag without saying a word. He would follow Brother Rong wherever he went, this was his principle; as for what he would do, that wasn’t his focus.
Tuoba Xianhan originally intended to follow Wei Chongrong back, but Wei Chongrong temporarily left him behind, saying that he should stay in Qingjia and wait for his orders. If Tuoba Xianhan didn’t leave, Huo Yingying naturally didn’t have to go and stayed behind.
On the third day after leaving Qingjia, Wei Chongrong received a funeral report from the capital that the Empress Dowager passed away.
Originally, they were supposed to travel during the day and rest at night, but since the Empress Dowager was already gone, they couldn’t delay on the road any longer and had to travel day and night to return to Yujing before the Empress Dowager’s first seven days were over.
Jun Hua was still taking Suyun Pill, and the change of horses was too much for him to bear. Looking at Jun Hua’s pale face, Wei Chongrong wanted to ask Dongfang to accompany him to travel more slowly and come two days later, but Jun Hua refused.
Wei Chongrong had no choice but to let Jun Hua ride with him, so that he could have a chance to rest a little.