Translator’s note: Another flash-forward extra about the twins, this time from Yuanyuan’s (the younger twin) point of view.
In the 4th year of Wanchang(1), Princess Hanshan married, and because she was the third princess to be married in four years, the people in the Ministry of the Imperial Household were able to organise the marriage with ease and didn’t need to bother Daddy. Anyway, there were old rules.
I have no elder sister, only one younger sister, Princess Qinghe Wei Nuo, but above Wei Nuo, there are three other princesses in the palace, namely Princess Huaiqing Wei Shi, Princess Ruyang Wei Ci, and then Princess Hanshan Wei Yu.
None of the three princesses are Father Emperor’s daughters. Their father was Prince Xiaoyi Wei Xuan, the eldest son of Emperor Renzong. If it weren’t for the assassination of Prince Xiaoyi, the throne of the supreme ruler probably would never belong to Grandfather Emperor and Father Emperor.
Father Emperor respected Prince Xiaoyi very much, and after he ascended the throne, he named all three of Wei Xuan’s daughters princesses. The Minister of the Imperial Clan didn’t express any objection to Father Emperor’s approach. With the example of Princess Leyi, it was really no big deal for the county lords to be upgraded to princesses.
Princess Huaiqing and Princess Ruyang married in the 1st and 2nd years of Wanchang, respectively. The marriages were carefully selected by Father Emperor and Daddy.
Like Emperor Renzong, Father Emperor also has the empty harem, with no one else there except for Daddy, the empress. Coincidentally, Empress Xiaoren was from the Jun family, and my Daddy is also surnamed Jun.
During the reign of Emperor Renzong, occasionally there were unscrupulous courtiers who would submit a memorial asking the emperor to accept concubines and spread branches and leaves. When it was Father Emperor’s turn, no one spoke out at all. Compared to Grandfather Emperor, who didn’t even have the empress, Father Emperor’s performance was already good enough.
Moreover, Grandfather Emperor has only one son, my father. At any rate, Father Emperor has my imperial brother and me, as well as Third Brother Wei Jin. No matter how you look at it, it’s enough. Who has nothing better to do than to try his luck with Father Emperor?
To be honest, not to mention that Father Emperor has three sons, even if there was only one brother, I think it would be enough.
Imperial Brother and I are identical twins, born from the same egg; except for the fact that we were born a quarter of an hour apart, everything else is exactly the same. I heard from my nanny that when Imperial Brother and I were just born and Father Emperor saw us, he quickly ordered someone to tie a small red rope to Imperial Brother’s ankle, saying that we looked so similar that he felt dizzy. If we were carried in the wrong way in the future, he was afraid he couldn’t tell us apart. It was safer to mark one of us.
If we weren’t the eldest son and second son of our father, if we were really mistaken, it wouldn’t matter. But our father is the Crown Prince. The issue of who was his eldest son and the Taisun of the Great Yan can’t be underestimated.
In the history of the Great Yan, there was only one precedent for being named a Taisun upon birth, that is, Wei Yi, the eldest grandson of Emperor Chengzong. My imperial brother was the second. I was the second son of the Crown Prince, so according to the law, I could only get the title of the wang after I was ten years old. However, Grandfather Emperor must have thought that since my imperial brother was a Taisun, it wouldn’t be good-looking for me to be just a plain grandson, so he also made an exception for me and named me Wang Linjiang.
Before I was three years old, I hardly felt the difference in identity with Imperial Brother. We ate together and slept together. It was no exaggeration to say that we were inseparable. The elders called Imperial Brother Tuantuan and called me Yuanyuan, and the palace people called us “Your Highness”. When they met us, they bowed down to us.
At the New Year’s Eve banquet in the 3rd year of Zhenghe, Daddy said that I was no longer an ignorant child, so I couldn’t be carried by my nanny to show my face in front of Grandfather Emperor like the previous two years. I had to go and pay respects by myself.
I nodded blankly and asked habitually, “Where’s my brother?” I was going to go by myself, and so was my brother, right?
I didn’t feel I was asking anything very profound, but who knew that Daddy would be frozen in his tracks and say after a long time, “Yuanyuan, you are going by yourself, not with Tuantuan.” But Daddy didn’t tell me why we weren’t together. It wasn’t like this before.
That night, my brother and my father sat on the right and on the left of Grandfather Emperor, and together with him, they accepted the greetings of hundreds of civil and military officials.
I didn’t quite understand why this was so, but I could vaguely feel the weight of the identity of the Taisun.
The days that followed weren’t much different from before, and Imperial Brother and I were still together all day long. Daddy was expecting a little sister, and we moved to Grandfather Emperor’s Zichen Palace together. Daddy gave birth to a little sister, and we moved back together again. We were never apart.
Our first separation happened when we were six years old. That year, Imperial Brother and I entered the palace school to study.
But before entering the palace school, Grandfather Emperor once again asked Imperial Brother to move to Zichen Palace. This time my brother was the only one. I couldn’t bear to be separated from him. I cried in front of my father and daddy for a long time, but it was useless. Imperial Brother still moved away.
At that time, I naively thought that Imperial Brother would only move away for a while and would come back soon.
Only when I grew up did I realise that it was a complete divergence in my life and my brother’s life paths, with no possibility of reuniting.
In the three centuries since the founding of the Great Yan, there had been countless imperial sons and grandsons, and my father’s life was the most legendary of all. During Emperor Xingzu’s reign, Grandfather Emperor fought for years with the Minister of the Imperial Clan to have my father’s name on the jade plate and to let him become the heir of Wang Qin.
Grandfather Emperor was the second son of Emperor Xingzu and the empress, and his relationship with his eldest brother, Emperor Renzong, had always been close. Therefore, for a long time, his greatest expectation for my father was to be a worthy son of the prince.
However, the deposed emperor went against the law of Heaven, murdered his elder brother and framed his younger brother. Grandfather Emperor held the last will of Emperor Renzong to depose the emperor and replace him. My father followed the rising tide and jumped from Wang Qin’s Shizi to the Crown Prince.
My father didn’t grow up receiving the education of the Crown Prince from an early age. In order to train him to govern, Grandfather Emperor had him to intern in all five ministries except the Ministry of War, and then started letting him learn to lead the court.
When it came to Imperial Brother, Grandfather Emperor’s training method returned to normal. He raised the Taisun the way the emperors raised the crown princes in the past. First theory and then practice, it was almost hand-in-hand teaching, with countless efforts devoted to it.
I also study at the palace school, but like other classmates, I only listen to the lectures of the teachers. Imperial Brother is different. He has separate courses that occupy all his spare time. As for what he has learned, I don’t know.
Occasionally, I envy Imperial Brother. I rarely have the opportunity to experience the feeling of being valued and anticipated.
But more often, I sympathise with him. Imperial Brother is so pitiful. He has endless things to learn every day and has no time to play. I don’t know if he regrets that he came to this world a moment earlier than me.
I once thought about what would happen if I were my brother. In the end, I felt fortunate that I was not.
I am lazy by nature, and I have to muddle through everything. I never treat myself with high demands. Obviously, Imperial Brother’s homework is much heavier than mine, but he can handle it with ease, while I procrastinate to the end. Occasionally, I can’t catch up, and I have to drag Imperial Brother to help.
I dread to think that if we were to swap identities, Grandfather Emperor and Father Emperor would be devastated.
In the year when we came of age, Grandfather Emperor abdicated and handed over the most complete empire since Emperor Shenwu of the Shenchuan Dynasty to our father.
Then our whole family moved collectively. Father Emperor moved to Zichen Palace, Daddy moved to Weiyang Palace, and my brother moved to the Eastern Palace. I and my younger brother and sister weren’t yet adults and lived in Weiyang Palace with Daddy.
When we used to live in Yongfu Palace, my father used the Eastern Palace as his office and never stayed there overnight. The same is true now. He goes to court, receives officials and reviews the memorials in Zichen Palace, but most of the time he rests at night in Weiyang Palace.
Only Imperial Brother, he lives alone in the Eastern Palace, separated from Zichen Palace and Weiyang Palace by the entire Six East Palaces.
At that time, I no longer cried like I did four years ago, because I knew that it was useless.
After moving to the Eastern Palace, Imperial Brother liked someone, although he never told anyone, even the one he liked.
As we get older, Imperial Brother and I can no longer find any similarities between us except for our looks. But our hearts are connected, it has never changed, so Imperial Brother’s little secret couldn’t be hidden from me, although I can’t say I was happy about it.
I always thought that as the Crown Prince of the empire, my brother could easily get everything he wanted. He didn’t reveal his feelings to the one he liked, probably because he thought the time wasn’t right yet. As a younger brother, I naturally wouldn’t do anything superfluous, otherwise my brother would be angry
But when Princess Hanshan’s marriage was settled, I was completely dumbfounded and couldn’t speak for a long time.
How could it be him?!
How could the future husband of Princess Hanshan be Ruan Meng?!
Was there a mistake somewhere?!
Ruan Meng is the younger brother of Ruan Ning, the king of Nanyue. His position as the Princess’s Consort is a bit forced. After all, Nanyue is a vassal state and the status of the vassal king is equivalent to that of the county wang, and Ruan Meng is only the younger brother of the vassal king. However, Ruan Meng has a plus point, that is, he is the nephew of Prince Xiaoyi, and he and Princess Hanshan are cousins, so they fit each other well. Prince Xiaoyi’s widow had no objection against Ruan Meng, so naturally, Father Emperor wouldn’t say anything and just bestow the marriage.
But Imperial Brother, why didn’t he even fight? He just let go of the person he liked.
I really couldn’t figure it out, so I simply ran to ask Imperial Brother. He obviously didn’t expect me to ask such a question and was a bit stunned.
“Brother, say something, why don’t you do anything?” When Imperial Brother was silent for a long time, I tugged at his sleeve and shook it.
He came back to his senses and looked straight at me, and after a long time sighed in a low voice: “What can I do?”
I became anxious and raised my voice, “You don’t even say anything, how do you know Ruan Meng doesn’t want to be the Crown Prince’s Lord Consort?”
Ruan Meng spent more than three years in the palace and was so close to Imperial Brother that I was jealous sometimes. But Princess Hanshan, the two of them had met only a handful of times, and if Imperial Brother had confessed earlier, she would definitely have no chance.
Imperial Brother hooked his lips and smiled suddenly, but his smile was cold and clear and didn’t reach his eyes.
I don’t like Imperial Brother smiling like that. I can see he doesn’t look happy at all. On the contrary, it is heartbreaking to watch him like this.
“Brother, don’t smile.” I sat cross-legged next to my brother, reached out and touched his face, “It’s not a good smile at all.”
When Imperial Brother heard this, his smile froze on his face, and he paused before asking rhetorically: “How do you know I haven’t said anything?”
I lay on his shoulder and said confidently: “I just know, you can’t hide it from me.”
Imperial Brother sighed and said with a wry smile: “He doesn’t even want to stay in Yujing for a long time, let alone live in the palace.”
Now it was my turn to be dumbfounded. I said after a long time: “Since he doesn’t want to stay, then why does he still want to be the Princess’s Consort?” The Minister of the Imperial Clan even repaired the residence of Princess Hanshan. Ruan Meng couldn’t be thinking of bringing Princess Hanshan back to Jing’an City, could he?
“The closeness of the relationship with the Great Yan is the most important reason why Nanyue can take the lead among the countries in the south. My aunt is already gone, but Ruan Ning doesn’t want this relationship to fade away. The best way is to get married. Wouldn’t it be great to marry a princess and go home?”
“If that’s the case…” I said hesitantly, “If you ask Father Emperor for a decree, Ruan Ning will definitely not object.” Anyway, it’s a marriage. Instead of marrying a princess who is not the emperor’s own daughter, it’s better to marry the Crown Prince. I secretly applauded my idea.
Imperial Brother chuckled, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, “Of course I can ask Father Emperor for a decree to marry, but Brother Meng doesn’t want to be trapped in the palace. If I force him, most likely he will resent me in the future. Why bother? It’s better to let go, at least we can still be friends.”
I stared wide-eyed and looked at Imperial Brother in disbelief. Before coming to the Eastern Palace, I knew he liked Ruan Meng, but I didn’t expect that he liked him to the extent that he couldn’t bear to make his life difficult in the slightest way. Suddenly, I found that I hated Ruan Meng very much, hated him to death.
Not only because he made Imperial Brother sad, but because in Imperial Brother’s heart, he was so important.
Obviously, Imperial Brother and I were inseparable. How could Ruan Meng take my place? It was too much.
On the day of Princess Hanshan’s wedding, Imperial Brother personally congratulated the newlywed couple. His smile was impeccable, and no one but me could see anything unusual.
When we returned to the Eastern Palace in the evening, Imperial Brother, who had always had great self-control, dragged me along to get drunk together.
I actually drank no less than Imperial Brother, but I wasn’t drunk. Was it what they call “wine doesn’t make people drunk”?(2)
While taking care of Imperial Brother, I cursed Ruan Meng in my heart. If it weren’t for him, my brother wouldn’t be so sad.
My brother is a good drinker. He sleeps quietly when he is drunk and won’t even say a drunken word, not difficult to serve at all.
I sat cross-legged beside him, my heart torn with worry and joy, indescribably tangled and complicated. I struggled for a long time, but when I saw that no one was around and that my brother had no intention of waking up for the moment, I bent down and kissed him gently on the cheek, in a quick and panicked movement.
I have asked myself many times since then why I did that, and the answer is always three words: I don’t know.
I really don’t know, it was an instinctive action that came from my body, I didn’t think about it.
After sitting up straight, I covered my face nervously and glanced around, but no one was there.
But Imperial Brother’s eyes suddenly opened, and he looked at me without blinking, confused and uncertain.
I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to do. Would Imperial Brother misunderstand me and think that I had some wrong thoughts about him? In fact, I didn’t think much about anything. I just thought he was sad. I wanted to hug him, kiss him, and comfort him. I didn’t mean anything else…
It’s just that if you say something like this, never mind Imperial Brother, even I wouldn’t believe it. I’m not an ignorant child who doesn’t understand anything. What kind of kissing is it? But if someone said that I had any thoughts about Imperial Brother that I shouldn’t have had… I would feel that I was quite wronged.
Just when I was ready to jump out of the bed anxiously and plead guilty, Imperial Brother closed his eyes again and went to sleep.
I breathed a long sigh of relief, and the big stone fell from my heart, but my mind was blank.
After a long time, I gradually came to my senses and thought back on my earlier actions, half scared to death by myself.
I didn’t dare stay long, so I ordered the servants at the Eastern Palace to take care of my brother and fled in a hurry.
The next day, when Imperial Brother saw me, he was exactly the same as usual. I don’t think he remembered what happened last night.
This was probably the best result, but I felt inexplicably disappointed in addition to rejoicing.
Two years later, Imperial Brother married Gu Qian, the eldest granddaughter of Gong Qi Gu Yu, as the Crown Prince’s wife.
That night, I drank alone under the moon in Yongfu Palace. The lonely wine was so bitter and astringent that it was hard to get drunk.
- Great prosperity; a little reminder about the eras: Wei Su’s reign was called Yongjia. In the previous life, Wei Yang’s reign was called Taiping. In this life, Wei Ming’ reign was called Tai’an, Wei Lan’s reign was called Baofeng, Wei Zhao’s reign was called Zhenghe, and Wei Chongrong’s reign is called Wanchang
- The expression actually means that it is not the wine’s fault a person gets drunk, it depends on yourself whether you allow yourself to get drunk
Translator’s note: There is actually a reviewer on NU who complains about “incest” between the twins. For real, is it necessary to point fingers and label as “incest” a confused action of a teenage boy who is overwhelmed with emotions, idolises his brother and feels sorry for him, is jealous and is sad? The lack of empathy of some people…
Another thing, the twins don’t seem very happy, right? 🙂 Don’t worry, the author wrote a sequel/spin-off where someone was reborn, and everyone ends up happy. Tuantuan gets his Brother Meng, and Yuanyuan also finds his love 🙂 And not only them 🙂