Translator’s note: another time skip, two years passed 🙂
It was late at night; there was no moon in the sky, the stars had gone off to play somewhere, and the boundless darkness enveloped the land.
After dodging the patrolling palace guards, an athletic figure dressed in black clothes appeared in the back hall of Daidang Palace.
“Little Monkey, it’s me.” Gently knocking on the closed window, the man in black whispered, “Are you asleep?”
There was no response from inside the room. The man pushed the window hard and found that it was bolted from the inside and impossible to open unless he broke it. Looking at the guards holding torches not far away, the young man gave up on the idea of breaking the window and prepared to take another shortcut.
Watching Wei Lan, who had become gloomy since he received the letter from the envoy of Nanyue, Jun Hua hesitated for a long time but didn’t dare to ask him what had happened. With some doubt and unease, he slowly walked back to his rooms in Daidang Palace.
The news that could make Wei Lan’s mood swing so violently was likely related to Brother Rong. Not knowing what happened to him in Yizhou, Jun Hua secretly speculated about the content of the letter and didn’t pay too much attention to the surrounding environment.
Suddenly, the door opened with a squeak, a black figure flashed in, quickly closing the door again. Jun Hua instinctively turned his head and clenched the dagger hidden in his sleeve, ready to meet the enemy.
“Your Imperial Highness Wang Wu!” Seeing who the visitor was, Jun Hua cried out. Was it necessary to be so mysterious?
“Hush!” Wei Hao made a gesture of silence and hastily signalled Jun Hua to keep his voice down. He put his ear to the door and held his breath for a moment to make sure there was no movement outside, then patted his chest and let out a sigh, “This was a close call, luckily I wasn’t discovered…”
Jun Hua took two steps forward in a daze; his lips moved as if he wanted to say something, but in the end he didn’t.
Wei Hao looked at Jun Hua, his face changed a little, and he said with a smile, “My nephew’s-yet-unmarried wife, won’t you ask me about the reason for my appearance here? Nephew Emperor is watching you very closely, I almost got spotted by the guards when I came all the way here.” He was a prince and the emperor’s uncle, but had to visit Shanglin Park like a thief. It was really pathetic.
The corners of Jun Hua’s mouth twitched involuntarily when he heard the expression “my nephew’s-yet-unmarried wife”, but Wei Hao’s seniority was there, so he couldn’t argue with him. Even if he followed the Ji family when counting seniority, he would still be one generation behind Wei Hao.
“Brother Rong did something in Yizhou that displeased His Majesty, right?” Jun Hua said softly, lowering his head just to raise it halfway. His slender dark eyes gleamed with intelligence, so bright that one couldn’t look away.
“How did you know that?” Wei Hao asked with some surprise. Two months ago, when Wei Lan went on a trip to Shanglin, he summoned Jun Hua and told him to accompany him; but in fact it was similar to house arrest. Anyway, Jun Hua was isolated from the world, and no one could contact him.
“Because His Majesty is very angry now, extraordinarily angry.” Jun Hua said worriedly, “What on earth has Brother Rong done in Yizhou? I’ve never seen His Majesty so angry, it’s like he wants to tear someone apart.”
Wei Hao was stunned at his words, and said in surprise after a long time, “Little Monkey, are you sure you’re not wrong, and His Majesty is really that angry?” The news from Yizhou was clearly good news. Wei Lan should’ve been thinking about how to reward the army, so why would he be angry?
Jun Hua was puzzled by the question and said with certainty, “How could I be wrong? I have known His Majesty for more than a day or two, and he is not very good at hiding his emotions. At least his eyes often betray his thoughts.”
Two years ago, shortly after the previous emperor’s death, Wei Lan issued a decree to recall Wang Changning, who had been stationed in Yizhou for many years, to Yujing. At first, Jun Hua was quite happy that both of his parents had returned and that his marriage to Wei Chongrong could be slowly put on the agenda.
But a few days later, Wei Lan issued another decree, ordering Wei Chongrong to go to Yao’an to take over Ji Xin’s defence duties.
Jun Hua was dumbfounded. Did Wei Lan want to mess with him like this? What made Jun Hua even more annoyed was that when he planned to follow Wei Chongrong to Yao’an, as he had lived there for several years and was familiar with everything, unexpectedly Wei Lan made him enter the palace to study with his two youngest uncles.
Both Wang Wu Wei Hao and Wang Song Wei Yang were the sons of Emperor Xingzu born when the emperor was old. They were only five years old when Wei Su died, so naturally they were raised by their eldest brother and brought up in Changle Palace. In the fifth year of Tai’an, when Wei Hao and Wei Yang reached the age of ten, Wei Ming gave his two younger brothers the titles of Wang Wu and Wang Song respectively, both being county wangs at the time. When Wei Lan ascended to the throne, he raised the titles of his two youngest uncles to those of qinwangs. In fact, at the time of Wei Ming’s death, it would have been possible for Wei Hao and Wei Yang, given their age, to go to their fiefs, but Wei Lan refused to let them go and continued to keep them in the palace.
Although Jun Hua was very unhappy in his heart, the emperor’s decree had already been issued, and no matter how unhappy he was, he had to pack up and enter the palace to study.
Fortunately, Wei Hao was his little friend he had known since childhood. The two of them had similar temperaments. Although Jun Hua didn’t know Wei Yang, Wei Yang was always quiet and had a weak sense of presence, so it was not difficult to get along with him. The three of them could be said to be comfortable with each other.
The problem was Wei Lan. The scrutinising gaze he cast from time to time made Jun Hua feel very confused. It was not that they had never met before. What did Wei Lan mean by this kind of look as if he wanted to see through him? Jun Hua had a bad feeling in his heart, but he couldn’t tell what was going on.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the look Wei Lan was giving him was devoid of affection, Jun Hua would have suspected that Wei Lan was secretly in love with him, which was simply inexplicable.
Hearing Jun Hua’s words full of certainty, Wei Hao couldn’t help but frown, “Two months ago, Zhuxia invaded Honghe County, but before they could capture a single city or a single piece of land, Rongrong beat them up. They lost a lot of troops and finally retreated in defeat.”
“What?!” Jun Hua’s eyes went wide with disbelief. This was a good thing, why should Wei Lan be angry? He didn’t like Wei Chongrong, fine, but hey, he was the emperor, and he didn’t have to worry about being robbed of his merits. If Wei Chongrong won the battle, it was also the emperor’s merit, wasn’t it?
Wei Hao spread his hands and said helplessly, “What Nephew Emperor is thinking, I can’t understand at all.”
Jun Hua frowned slightly and thought for a moment, then asked, “Your Highness, you took the risk of sneaking into Shanglin Park to tell me about this?” Wei Lan had not summoned Wei Hao and Wei Yang when he visited Shanglin Park; they should have stayed in the palace.
Wei Hao raised his hand, patted his head and said suddenly, “Nephew’s wife, thanks for your reminder, I almost forgot another thing. Fourth Brother and Wang Changning have discussed your marriage to Rongrong, and Fourth Brother has already handed His Majesty a memorial requesting for a marriage.”
Wei Lan liked to keep Jun Hua in the palace, and although he didn’t do anything, it always looked weird in the eyes of outsiders. However, his reasons were still very sufficient. Jun Hua entered the palace to accompany his two youngest uncles to study, and Ji Xin and Jun Qing couldn’t argue with it.
When Jun Hua heard this, his face didn’t show any joy: “If His Majesty has the intention to stop us, he can say that the war at the border is important and Brother Rong shouldn’t indulge in love affairs.” Even if Wei Zhao had handed in a request for marriage, Wei Lan could withhold it without replying.
Wei Hao waved his hand, indicating that Jun Hua didn’t need to worry: “Little Monkey, you’re worrying too much, in the marriage between you and Rongrong, ah, Nephew Emperor doesn’t count. As long as the Empress Dowager agrees, he can’t possibly refute it.”
“The Empress Dowager?!” Jun Hua still didn’t understand what reason the Empress Dowager had to antagonise his own son.
Wei Hao stomped his feet and said, out of breath, “Little Monkey, what’s your surname and what’s the Empress Dowager’s?” He wondered if Jun Hua had been made stupid by Wei Lan. They were both members of the Jun family, so why would the Empress Dowager oppose his marriage if there was no harm in it?
Jun Hua came back to his senses and said naively, “Actually, me and the Jun family have little connection.” The Jun family was a family of scholars, poets and writers, but from the Shenchuan dynasty to the Great Yan, the sons of the Jun family had never served in the military. They educated people and wrote books for their whole lives.
In this respect, Jun Lin and Jun Feili were both considered to be an anomaly in the Jun family. One of them had earned the title of the Hou with his military merits, and the other had started as the Crown Prince’s Lord Consort to become the Empress Dowager now. They indeed had very little connection with the Jun family itself.
Wei Hao curled his lips in a smile, reminding very kindly: “Little Monkey, don’t forget that Hou Zhaoyang is the Empress Dowager’s nephew. If he personally goes to beg the Empress Dowager, how can the Empress Dowager not allow the marriage? Besides, Rongrong is not too young anymore. Other sons of the clan have children running around all over the place at his age, and he has not yet married a wife. Not only will the Empress Dowager not oppose the marriage, he might even personally bestow it. If the emperor wants to keep you in the palace, even if he drags it on, it’s impossible to drag it for a long time.”
Jun Hua thought about it, but the feeling of apprehension and anxiety in his heart didn’t lessen, but tended to increase.
“All right, all right, just wait with peace of mind. It’s getting late, I have to hurry, if someone finds out, it won’t be fun.” Wei Hao said, pushing open the window and leaping out, his agile figure quickly disappearing in the darkness.
Jun Hua closed the window, turned around and leaned against it, letting out a long, quiet sigh. Hopefully Wei Hao’s words would come true. He had really had enough of being around Wei Lan. If he continued to be trapped by Wei Lan, he would have the urge to commit regicide.
Jun Hua thought that even with the Empress Dowager’s intervention, it would take three to five months for Wei Lan to approve the marriage.
However, just half a month later, Wei Lan issued a decree to bestow the marriage. Not only did he let Jun Hua go home and prepare for the wedding, he also summoned Wei Chongrong back to the capital, saying that Wei Chongrong had worked hard in Yizhou for the past two years and that the wedding night was one of the four joys of life(1), so he was using this opportunity to give Wei Chongrong a big vacation.
Since Wei Chongrong was far away in Yizhou, Wei Zhao received the decree on his behalf, but as soon as he returned to his residence, he invited Ji Xin and Jun Qing to talk.
“I originally was thinking of taking the opportunity of the marriage to ask His Majesty to let Hua’er out of the palace. He keeps holding him back and it doesn’t look decent, but…” Wei Zhao let out a long sigh, his expression very uncertain.
Jun Qing followed his words and finished: “But you didn’t expect that His Majesty would agree so readily and even allow Rong’er to return to the capital.” Given the current situation in Yizhou, this decision made by Wei Lan was really quite incomprehensible.
- From a poem of Wang Zhu; four great joys of life are: rain after a long drought, meeting an old friend in a foreign land, wedding night in the bridal chamber and being named on the golden list (that is, getting Jinshi (the highest and final degree in the imperial examination)). Meanwhile, four great sorrows of life are: a young man losing his parents, a middle-aged man losing his spouse, an old man losing his only son, and a young man having no good teacher