It was nearly the fifth of the five night watch periods(1) when Wei Chongrong rushed back to Wang Qin’s residence. Wei Zhao was waiting for him and the light in the study was on all night.
Something very important must have happened yesterday. The more Wei Chongrong thought about it, the more frightened he became, speeding up towards the study.
“Daddy, I’m back, what happened? You called me back in such a hurry.” Wei Chongrong walked straight in, asking as soon as he entered, his tone urgent.
When Wei Zhao saw Wei Chongrong enter the room, he smiled and beckoned to him, “Rong’er, come here.” Compared to Wei Chongrong’s expression, his was much more calm and relaxed.
Wei Chongrong immediately went over and sat beside Wei Zhao, frowning, “Daddy, you knew I’d be back very late, you could have gone to bed, why stay up all night waiting for me? It harms your health, you’re already very busy, what if you get sick from exhaustion?”
Wei Ming was too sick to govern and didn’t allow Wei Lan to intervene but entrusted all the government affairs to Wei Zhao. However, Wei Zhao had his own duties, so he was extremely busy, and every time Wei Chongrong came back to the residence, he would see Wei Zhao going to bed very late.
When faced with his son’s words of concern, Wei Zhao felt grateful in his heart but on the surface he smiled carelessly: “Where am I that delicate? You rode a horse for half the night and you aren’t tired, how can I be tired sitting in the house waiting for you?”
Wei Chongrong raised his eyebrows and said louder, “Daddy, I’m not joking with you, take your health seriously, okay? As Wang Lu’s Lord Consort said, don’t work too hard, don’t think too much. You should take care of your body.”
Wei Zhao frowned slightly at his words, feeling that they sounded familiar, and upon further reflection, it was the same words Sun Ye said to Wei Ming yesterday at the palace. It turned out that Sun Ye had said something similar to him a long time ago too, but he hadn’t done much about it.
Thinking about this, Wei Zhao sighed quietly, “Does Rong’er want to say that people should step aside when they are old so as not to embarrass themselves?”
Wei Chongrong subconsciously shook his head and said quickly, “Daddy is not old, he is in his prime. If you and I stand side by side, people who don’t know our relationship will definitely think we are brothers.”
Wei Zhao was amused by him and laughed, “You little brat, your mouth is getting sweeter and sweeter. Is this how you usually coax Hua’er?”
Wei Chongrong smiled, but in fact, what he said wasn’t just flattery. The fact that the gods of fate definitely favoured Wei Zhao in terms of appearance, as he had gathered the advantages of both his parents, was self-evident; the age had not left many signs on his face either. He was nearly forty years old, yet he looked like a man in his early thirties. Wei Zhao himself didn’t care about this, while Wei Chongrong and Huo Qingyang were more concerned about his physical health.
In the years in Fuyu, the damage caused by Helian Zhuo to Wei Zhao’s body was irreparable. Even under Sun Ye’s attentive care, he only recovered sixty or seventy percent of his health. Wei Zhao wasn’t idle either. After returning to the Great Yan, for more than ten years he was almost always busy.
Fortunately, after the battle against Fuyu, Wei Zhao didn’t lead troops on any more expeditions but stayed in the capital and commanded remotely. With Wei Ming and Wei Xuan, he only had to take care of his own duties, so he wasn’t so busy that he couldn’t cope with his workload.
The death of Wei Xuan came too suddenly; not to mention the emperor and the empress who were distraught, even Wei Zhao found it hard to accept. Wei Zhao was only nine years older than Wei Xuan, so he grew up playing with him when he was a child, and Wei Xuan’s later care for Wei Chongrong stemmed to a large extent from his love for Wei Zhao.
Before Wei Xuan’s assassination, at least half of Wei Ming’s political affairs were handed over to him, and he was also the one who read most of the memorials submitted by the courtiers. With the sudden death of Wei Xuan, the Eastern Palace was left without a head and had a backlog of affairs.
When the Empress Dowager died and the emperor became seriously ill, Wei Zhao’s workload increased several times compared to before, so how could Wei Chongrong not be worried?
However, Wei Zhao was Wang Qin and was in charge of the government on behalf of the emperor, so even though Wei Chongrong wanted to share his burden, he was unable to do so.
Seeing the indescribable fatigue in Wei Zhao’s eyes, Wei Chongrong stopped talking about it and asked directly: “Daddy, what happened in the palace yesterday?” If they made a long story short, Wei Zhao might still have time to nap for a while before going to the palace; otherwise it would be another sleepless night for him.
Wei Zhao curbed his smile and said solemnly: “Brother Emperor’s condition has worsened again, and the situation may not be good…”
“What?!” Wei Chongrong was stunned, his mouth open, as he didn’t know what to say. Wei Ming’s health was obviously inferior to that of his parents, otherwise when Wei Xuan was still alive, he wouldn’t have shared so many of the political affairs. The death of the Crown Prince and the Empress Dowager one after another was a very heavy blow to Wei Ming.
Although Wei Chongrong was reluctant to believe, but in his heart, he had to accept the fact that Uncle Emperor who loved him so much since he was a child wouldn’t live long…
It was just that the emperor was so sick and the position of the Crown Prince was vacant, so the situation looked particularly bad.
Seeing Wei Chongrong’s silence, Wei Zhao continued, “Brother Emperor still insists on appointing the Taisun…”
Not waiting for Wei Zhao to finish his words, Wei Chongrong said sharply, “It’s good to appoint the Taisun, at least better than Wei Lan succeeding to the throne.” Moreover, since Wei Ming didn’t want to pass the throne to Wei Lan, he wouldn’t let him assist the government. The title of the first assistant minister would go to Wei Zhao.
There were a lot of variables about a little child. He might grow up to be an elegant gentleman like his father, or he might be like his second uncle, who was unworthy of his parents…
But none of that mattered. That was a long time from now; and for now, as long as Xie Xiang could give birth to a son, as long as Wei Ming could last until then, Wei Zhao would have enough time to clean up Wei Lan. He firmly believed that he didn’t suspect the wrong person.
Wei Zhao patted the back of Wei Chongrong’s hand, gesturing for him to take it easy: “I didn’t expect that Brother Emperor’s condition would deteriorate so quickly. I also advised him not to appoint the Taisun too soon, so as not to cause a shock. Unfortunately…”
In just less than half a year, the thing he had to worry about became whether Wei Ming could last until the birth of his grandson. As for the gender of the child, Wei Zhao never doubted Sun Ye’s words; it couldn’t be a little county lord.
Wei Chongrong’s eyes flashed and he asked, “Daddy, are you worried that Uncle Emperor won’t be able to wait for the baby to be born?” If that was the case, one could only say that it was God’s will. They couldn’t make the child come out early just to get there in time.
Wei Zhao nodded gently, then said, “Today I saw that the empress disapprove the appointment of Taisun…”
“This is normal, a grandson is not as close as a son. But for such a big matter as appointing the Crown Prince, Uncle Emperor should be the only one who can decide.” Wei Chongrong felt that the empress’s thoughts were normal, but he didn’t think that Jun Feili could make Wei Ming change his mind.
Wei Zhao frowned deeply and said after a long time, “I hope that I am overthinking.”
Looking at the worried look in his eyes, Wei Chongrong reached out and wrapped his arms around Wei Zhao’s shoulders, saying seriously, “Daddy, don’t worry, I know what to do. No matter what happens, the soldiers of the two camps, both the Eastern and the Western, will only recognise the tiger tally in your hands.”
“En.” Wei Zhao replied softly, showing a slight smile to his son who was already half a head taller than him.
Wei Chongrong glanced sideways at the sky outside the window and said quietly, “It’s almost dawn, Daddy, hurry up and get some sleep, otherwise when you go to the palace, you will have to work all day again. Your body will not be able to bear it. I don’t want to see you sick.”
Wei Zhao smiled without saying a word, and lay down on the couch in his clothes. Wei Chongrong stayed by his side and watched him fall asleep before quietly leaving.
Half a month later, the Crown Prince’s Consort went into premature labour and struggled for a day and a night before giving birth to a frail baby boy. The baby was very small, weighing less than four catties and crying no louder than a kitten. If it weren’t for Sun Ye’s skills, he would likely have not survived.
Xie Xiang held her newborn son with an indignant look on her face, “Mother, it wasn’t me, it really wasn’t me…”
Even if Sun Ye had said that she was pregnant with a son, even if Wei Ming had hinted that he would appoint the Taisun if it was a boy, even if the emperor’s condition was unpredictable and there was a chance that he wouldn’t be able to wait for the birth of his grandson at all, she had never thought of artificially allowing the child to be born prematurely.
This was her child, this was Wei Xuan’s only son, how could she possibly joke with his life!
Seeing this, Princess Yuankang was shocked and shouted sternly, “Ah Xiang, be silent, don’t talk nonsense!” She did believe in her daughter. Rather she herself had such thoughts; but thinking that the emperor’s condition was still stable and that a weak child would certainly not be able to sit on the throne and might even make the emperor feel such a child shouldn’t be given a chance to sit on the throne at all, she gave up on this idea and didn’t take any measures.
“Of course it’s not you, this would do no good to either of you, mother and child.” As Xie Xiu looked at her skinny little nephew, who was not even strong enough to eat, her eyes were full of pity. It was hard to say whether this child could survive till adulthood.
“It’s him, it must be him!” Xie Xiang suddenly raised her head. “Except for things from him, everything I eat is made in the Eastern Palace’s kitchen.” Xie Xiang had been in the palace for many years and the Eastern Palace was so well managed that it wasn’t easy for an outsider to lay hands on her.
“Ah Xiang, stop talking!” Princess Yuankang was very perceptive and immediately understood who the person her daughter was talking about was.
In the Chengqian Hall, Wei Ming waited for many hours, finally getting the news that the little emperor’s grandson was born safely. He asked Sun Ye if the child’s health was in any serious trouble. Sun Ye said that he was just weaker than an ordinary child, but that if he took care of himself, he would grow up well.
Wei Ming lay back on the cushion. Disappointment flashed in his eyes. His disappointment wasn’t only caused by his little grandson’s health.
“If this is what you want, I will grant you your wish. I just hope that later, you will not regret it.” The emperor murmured the words that no one but him could understand.
Later in the evening, Wei Ming summoned Wei Zhao and handed him a secret decree.
“Ah Zhao, I am sorry, but I cannot help it.” The little grandson wasn’t in good health, and he had no other choice but Wei Lan.
On the 18th day of the third month in the 9th year of Tai’an, Emperor Renzong Wei Ming died and the Second Prince Wang Zhao Wei Lan succeeded to the throne, naming the following year the 1st year of Baofeng(2).
- 03:00-05:00 a.m.
- Precious and abundant
Translator’s note: Can you guess who “him” is and whose wish Wei Ming decided to grant?