In the late spring of the 1st year of Wanchang, on the official road from Yujing south to Langya County, a simple and unpretentious carriage was moving smoothly.
The carriage looked unassuming, but a knowledgeable person would understand how precious it was. The two horses pulling the carriage alone were from Dayuan, not to mention that the coachman and the guards accompanying the carriage all were top martial arts experts.
The layout of the carriage was exquisite and elegant, and the things used in it were all of the highest quality. Wei Zhao sat by the window, raising the curtain from time to time and looking out. His expression was somewhat serious, but he remained silent, thinking about something.
Jun Qing sat opposite Wei Zhao, holding a tea cup in his hand, looking like he wanted to say something but hesitating. He waited for a long time, and when he saw that Wei Zhao really didn’t plan to speak, he said coldly, “You didn’t ask me to come to the carriage because you wanted me to stare at you, did you?”
Wei Zhao put down the curtain, turned his head to look at Jun Qing, and said calmly: “Of course not.”
“Oh.” Jun Qing responded meaningfully, “Then what is that for?”
Last year, Wei Zhao passed the throne to Wei Chongrong despite the fierce opposition of the courtiers. At the beginning of the year, Wei Chongrong officially ascended the throne and changed the era’s name. Then Wei Zhao left the capital under the banner of “There are no two suns in the sky, and there are no two monarchs in the country”, saying that he was going to Taiping Palace to recuperate.
In fact, Wei Zhao had never been to Taiping Palace at all and planned to travel around the country in disguise.
Jun Qing has no objection to Wei Zhao’s travel plan. He was travelling in disguise, and there were many expert guards led by Huo Qingyang around him, so safety was not a problem. He had no objection to wherever Wei Zhao wanted to go.
If only Wei Zhao didn’t take him along when going out.
During Wei Zhao’s reign, Huo Qingyang was in charge of the Eastern Camp, while Ji Xin was in charge of the Western Camp. Now, Wei Zhao abducted Huo Qingyang and went to travel, and the affairs of the Eastern Camp were temporarily handed over to Tuoba Xianhan. If Ji Xin also ran away, there would be no one to hold the fort in the capital.
Jun Qing didn’t want to go out, but Wei Zhao told him that he was going to the Jun family, so Jun Qing couldn’t help but accompany him.
Although they had grown up together since they were children and were closer than brothers, Wei Zhao and Jun Qing had never known their origin before Wei Su’s death in the 52nd year of Yongjia.
When he was told that he was not born of Empress Ji and that he and Wei Ming were not brothers from the same mother, Wei Zhao’s first reaction was that the emperor was crazy, was talking nonsense and had no idea what he was saying.
How could he not be the son of his mother? She loved him as much as the Crown Prince. How could he not be the younger brother of Princess Yuankang and Wei Ming? They loved him from the bottom of their hearts without reservation.
It was Wei Su who was mistaken, it must be, Wei Zhao shook his head in disbelief.
He knew his father emperor, the man who valued power and martial arts far more than feelings. Empress Ji was born in Wang Changning’s residence. Her father, brother and nephew had outstanding military achievements. She had a stunning appearance that an ordinary woman couldn’t dream of, but her position in the heart of Wei Su was still limited. As for the men and women in Wei Su’s harem, they were fleeting like shooting stars, leaving no ripples.
It was hard for Wei Zhao to imagine: if he was not the son of Empress Ji, where did Wei Su’s love for him come from? Both Consort Xin and Concubine Yun had been favoured for a while, but after their early deaths, Wei Su didn’t pay much attention to Wei Xu and Wei Shi.
What kind of a person was his birth mother, whom he had never met, that Wei Su, who had always been stingy with his affection, could still remember her and love her son more than twenty years later?
Wei Zhao’s mood was very complicated. On the one hand, he didn’t want to believe what Wei Su said; on the other hand, he couldn’t stop himself from guessing who his birth mother was.
Finally, under Wei Zhao’s expectant eyes, Wei Su said the name that made him doubt his hearing.
Hou Zhaoyang Huan Jun Lin?!
The eternally undefeated god of war of the Great Yan?!
Wei Zhao’s eyes widened, full of disbelief.
He stared at Wei Su, not even blinking.
This was impossible!
Wei Zhao suddenly remembered that many years ago, Wei Chongrong had asked him if Jun Qing could be the child born by Jun Lin himself.
He said with conviction that it was impossible because the timing wasn’t right.
How could Wei Zhao have imagined that not only Jun Qing, but also he himself, was born to Jun Lin himself?
Moreover, judging from the date of their birth and the itinerary of Jun Lin’s journey at the time, he had conceived them before the decisive battle in the north of the desert.
Because after the battle, Jun Lin went straight to Langya, and when he returned to Yujing, he was already with Jun Qing.
In addition to being shocked, Wei Zhao felt inexplicably fortunate. It turned out that he had also been on the battlefield in the north of the desert and survived unscathed. It was really not easy.
If Wei Su had said any other name, Wei Zhao might have taken a long time to adapt and accept this fact.
But with Jun Lin, this process could be omitted.
You had to know that in Wei Zhao’s life experience from childhood to adulthood, the name Jun Lin was unique.
Long before he had any definite knowledge of this world, Wei Su would often mention Jun Lin in front of him, intentionally or unintentionally.
Although Wei Zhao was only three years old when Jun Lin died and had no impression of his appearance, he remembered the song “Guarding each other forever” and the various events related to Jun Lin clearly.
It was just that…
The object of simple longing and admiration suddenly became the person who gave birth to him.
It was obvious how much Wei Zhao was affected.
He also wondered how two people like this got together.
It wasn’t surprising that Wei Su fell in love with Jun Lin; Jun Lin was his type from his appearance to his personality to his martial arts skills.
But where did Jun Lin’s feelings for Wei Su come from? Wei Zhao just couldn’t figure it out. Jun Lin obviously could have chosen better.
The dead are the most respected, and besides, it was a decision made by Jun Lin himself, and Wei Zhao didn’t dwell on these issues for too long.
Besides, Wei Su chose to reveal the origin of his two sons at that time not to change anything. He just didn’t want Wei Zhao and Jun Qing to be ignorant about their origin, as they were the twins closest by blood.
After Wei Su’s death, all the relics left in the palace by Jun Lin were buried with him, leaving Wei Zhao speechless. Couldn’t Wei Su leave him at least something as a keepsake?
Later, Wei Zhao quietly asked Jun Qing if he had anything left by Jun Lin.
The answer was that if not to count Hou Zhaoyang’s residence itself, there was almost nothing. Jun Lin had lived in Wang Changning’s residence when he was young, and at the age of sixteen he had been made a Hou and had his own mansion, so there should have been many objects of his in these two places. But in fact, Jun Lin lived in the palace most of the time when he was not in the military camp or on the battlefield, so Wang Changning’s residence or Hou Zhaoyang’s residence were just places for him to stay, not a permanent residence at all.
Wei Zhao was even more frustrated when he heard this. With his identity as Jun Lin’s cousin and their positions of the monarch and the subject, he couldn’t do anything related to Jun Lin.
Over the past two decades, the tide had risen and fallen and the winds had changed. After the throne had been handed down to his son, Wei Zhao felt relieved and finally had time to do the things he wanted to do before but had no chance to do.
First of all, he wanted to go to the Jun family’s house to take a look; anyway, it was also the place where he was born. In the past, Wei Zhao wouldn’t dare to have such an idea. If for no reason, he went to visit the Jun family out of thin air, it would definitely make people suspicious. Even Wei Chongrong was more justified than him in going there.
Now that he had abdicated, he could be travelling again. There was no harm in going there, and he might even find something.
Wei Zhao was unfamiliar with the Jun family, and he was afraid that he would come to visit and the people would feel puzzled, so he called Jun Qing to accompany him. Although Jun Qing rarely returned to his hometown, he and the Jun family in Langya had long-term correspondence, so he had to know more about the situation of the Jun family.
Except for the unique case of Jun Lin, few people in the Jun family had achieved success in their career in the past. They were not considered a clan, but the heirloom of the Jun family was books. If you wanted to talk about family history, not to mention the Wei family, even the Shenchuan family of the previous dynasty didn’t have such a long history as the Jun family.
Wei Zhao never thought about who he wanted to see in the Jun family. He just wanted to see that place. Who was to blame that the Jun family rules were too strict, and the sons of the family were not allowed to take concubines easily, resulting in the descendants of the main branch being so few in numbers that from time to time they had to adopt the children of the side branch.
In the generation of Jun Lin’s father, Jun Ya, he was the only son of the main branch, and within two years of marrying Ji Yang, he was divorced, an unprecedented record for the Jun family. To make matters worse, Ji Yang agreed to give their son the surname Jun, but refused to give him back.
It wasn’t that the Jun family hadn’t thought of taking Jun Lin back, but after Jun Ya made a special trip to Yujing to see Jun Lin once, no one ever mentioned it again.
Jun Ya had two sons, one was Jun Lin and the other was Jun Feili. According to the family rules of the Jun family, the head of the family had to be the son of the main wife. If the current head of the family didn’t have a son from the main wife, he could only adopt an heir from the children of his brothers or even cousins, but he couldn’t let his own son from a concubine inherit.
Wei Zhao seriously suspected that Jun Ya asked Jun Lin to take Jun Feili away from the Jun family’s house because his identity was too embarrassing to stay.
Jun Lin had no intention of inheriting, Jun Feili was not eligible, and Jun Ya didn’t even have brothers and could only adopt his cousin’s eldest son as his heir. This was also one of the reasons why Jun Qing didn’t like to go back to the Jun family. All three of his uncles(1) were in Yujing, so it was really meaningless to go back to his hometown.
The carriage moved smoothly and slowly in the direction of Langya. Wei Zhao was silent for a long time before asking softly: “Do you think if we go there, we can find some traces of him?” There was nothing in the palace, nothing in Wang Changning’s residence, nothing in Hou Zhaoyang’s mansion. He could only count on the Jun family.
“There is hardly anything, but people who knew him…” Jun Qing paused and said slowly: “There is one.” Jun Lin cherished ink like gold and did everything but writing. The only few letters and ink drawings were taken by Wei Su to be buried with him.
“Who is it?” Wei Zhao’s eyes suddenly lit up. Jun Lin had almost no friends, and the only one or two he had were long gone, at least by the time Wei Zhao learned of his origin. It was impossible for him to ask anyone about the past.
Jun Qing took a sip of tea and said softly: “My grandfather, actually… he is yours too.”
“Grandfather?” Wei Zhao was taken aback for a moment before muttering: “The old man is still alive? How old is he?” Both he and Jun Qing were at the age of knowing their destiny(2). It was incredible that their grandfather was still alive.
“Ahem…” Jun Qing coughed lightly, as if choked by Wei Zhao’s words, then relaxed and said, “If you talk about the age, your grandfather is younger than… His Majesty.” Wei Zhao accepted Jun Lin easily, but Jun Qing’s name for Wei Su would always remain “His Majesty”.
Wei Zhao’s eyebrows twitched; he decided to ignore the messy accounts of the previous generation, and restarted the conversation: “You never told me that the old man is still alive…” Had he known that Jun Ya was still alive, he would have found a chance to go out of the palace some years ago.
Jun Qing said unexpectedly: “I thought… you wouldn’t be interested?” For example, he himself had never had any sense of belonging to the Wei family, and he never felt that Wei Zhao had robbed him of anything. Even now, Wei Zhao could only sneak around to pay respects to Jun Lin.
Wei Zhao pursed his lips and was silent. If it weren’t for Jun Ya’s prophecy back then, most likely his and Jun Qing’s places would have been reversed, so he was very interested in meeting the grandfather who could be said to have changed the trajectory of his destiny.
Wei Zhao’s trip to Langya was even more rewarding than he had imagined. That grandfather, whose talent was renowned, really lived up to his name, but more importantly, there were really quite a few objects left behind by Jun Lin in the Jun family, and they were related to them brothers.
For example, the handprints and footprints made when they were born, and the portraits Jun Lin drew of them when they slept together, so vividly painted that Wei Zhao and Jun Qing couldn’t help but think of the twins as they were ten years ago, sleeping in the same pose.
Jun Qing’s personality was not like Jun Lin’s. On the contrary, he was a bit similar to Jun Ya. He was cold to people and things, and rarely demonstrated his feelings. However, seeing the paintings and letters that he had never seen before, Jun Qing was rarely angry. He asked Jun Ya why he had never told him this, which made him think for many years that his father had left him nothing. And now that Wei Zhao came, he took out everything. Was there any difference between them?
Jun Ya smiled lightly, and then innocently said that this was Jun Lin’s wish. These things were left to the two brothers. Only when they returned to the Jun family’s house together could he take them out. As for why, they could only ask Jun Lin in the future.
Jun Qing was speechless, raising his eyebrows and unable to say anything. He would really like to ask Jun Lin, but could he? Moreover, when they were born, Jun Lin was only in his early twenties, so it was a bit weird why he was already arranging these things.
Wei Zhao obviously thought of this too. He frowned slightly and looked sideways at Jun Ya. Wei Su was more than ten years older than Jun Lin. Normally, Wei Su should have been the one who passed away first, but apart from Wei Su, was it possible for anyone else to tell them the truth?
Jun Lin already knew at that time…
His life wouldn’t be long.
That was why he left those things. He was sure that Wei Su would tell the truth to the two children one day in the future and he didn’t want them to be too upset.
Wei Zhao hesitated for a long time, but finally said, “He… wasn’t he afraid that we wouldn’t come?”
“If that was the case, I would only take these things with me.” When he first decided to send Wei Zhao back to the palace, Jun Lin hesitated. Although Jun Ya’s prophecy sounded a little unreliable, it seemed quite interesting if it came true.
Wei Zhao and Jun Qing looked at each other in silence, and there was a glimmer of joy in their eyes.
That night, Wei Zhao and Jun Ya talked by candlelight and had a good time, and Wei Zhao finally came up with an idea. Wei Zhao asked Jun Qing to tell Wei Chongrong when he returned to the capital to send the Crown Prince to the Jun family’s house to study with Jun Ya for two years.
The old man had been teaching and educating people all his life, and his disciples and their disciples were all over the court, but he still refused to go to the capital. Wei Zhao thought about it and came up with this compromise. If the mountain won’t come to him, he will come to the mountain.
Jun Qing had no objection to Wei Zhao’s arrangement. He thought for a while and asked in a low voice, “You seem to be very uneasy about the Crown Prince?” From a young age, Wei Qian was brought up by Wei Zhao and the teachers Wei Zhao arranged for him were all great scholars of the dynasty, and now he even thought of sending the child to the Jun family to study the documents of the long-dead generations.
“Tuantuan’s future situation…” Wei Zhao paused as he said that, and finished after a long time: “He and Rong’er are completely different. He has no way back. He must do his best.” Upon birth, he was named the Taisun, and with Wei Chongrong ascending the throne he became the Crown Prince. There was only one road ahead for Wei Qian.
“Are you worried about Yuanyuan and Quanquan?” Tuantuan and Yuanyuan had just turned ten years old, and Little Quanquan was only three years old. The brothers had always been loving and close to each other. Wei Zhao seemed to be thinking a little too far ahead.
Wei Zhao let out a low sigh and said softly, “It’s not a bad thing to take precautions before something happens.” He couldn’t tell Jun Qing that the one he was most worried about was actually Wei Chongrong, even though at the moment, he was just a silly father who spoiled his sons to no end.
But Wei Ming’s lessons from the past were right in front of him, and it was impossible for Wei Zhao not to think about it. At the end of the Yongjia era, Wei Su’s mentality towards Wei Ming was very complicated, Wei Zhao could see it clearly. But when Wei Ming was a child, Wei Su loved him no less than Wei Chongrong loved Wei Qian.
There was also Wei Lan’s example. In the imperial family it was difficult to avoid the rivalry among siblings. The most effective way to prevent the younger brothers from having unnecessary thoughts was for the Crown Prince himself to be strong enough not to give other princes any chance.
The twins entered the palace school at the age of six. Wei Zhao and Wei Chongrong kept an eye on Tuantuan’s studies, not giving him a chance to relax at all. There were various make-up classes at any time. The emperor and Crown Prince took turns on the stage, and scholars, officials and generals made various cameos.
In contrast, Yuanyuan’s life was very relaxed. If you like to learn, you can learn, and if you don’t like to learn, you can play, no one will say anything.
Jun Qing was silent and asked after a long time: “Have you asked Grandfather what he wanted? I remember that he stopped taking disciples a long time ago?”
Wei Zhao shook his head: “What to ask, what should I do if the old man refuses? I can’t force him. But if I send the child over directly, I don’t believe he could drive my family out of the house.” After speaking, he glanced at Jun Qing triumphantly.
Jun Qing was completely speechless; Wei Zhao took preemptive measures, what else could he say.
After the trip to the Jun family, Wei Zhao and Huo Qingyang went north to Youzhou to visit Huo Qingyang’s hometown. Jun Qing returned directly to Yujing and conveyed Wei Zhao’s meaning to Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua.
Jun Hua was very puzzled when he heard this. No matter how talented his great-grandfather was, there was no need to send the Crown Prince to him to study.
Seeing that Jun Qing had no intention of explaining, Wei Chongrong looked thoughtful and didn’t ask anything.
When Jun Qing left the palace, Jun Hua asked, “Brother Rong, do you understand Father Emperor’s intentions?”
Wei Chongrong nodded, but said nothing with a smile. Earlier, when Wei Zhao had suddenly gone to Langya to the Jun family’s house, he felt somewhat strange, vaguely guessing something, but unable to believe it.
This time, Wei Zhao wanted to send Tuantuan there, which was a complete confirmation of his guess.
Seeing Wei Chongrong’s hesitation to speak, Jun Hua anxiously urged him: “If you know, just say it, don’t be a tease, okay?”
Wei Chongrong lowered his head, pressed his lips to Jun Hua’s and said something in a voice that no third person would ever hear.
Gradually, Jun Hua’s expression froze; he opened his mouth as if to say something, but made no sound.
Wei Chongrong understood Jun Hua’s mood very well and squeezed his hand vigorously. He observed the situation for more than twenty years before and after rebirth, and compared the information he had obtained in the two lives before he dared to think that way. But till this day, he had never dared to ask Wei Zhao for verification.
Jun Hua had never heard of it before, and it was inevitable for him to be shocked.
After a long time, he heard Jun Hua murmur: “It turns out that I didn’t call Brother Rong wrong from the beginning…”
Wei Chongrong didn’t expect Jun Hua to think of this and was dumbfounded.
- Jun Feili (from his grandfather’s side), Sun Shu and Sun Ye (from his grandmother’s side)
- Hehe, an elegant way of the ancients to describe people who reached the age of fifty 🙂
Translator’s note: I feel sad for Jun Lin who knows he won’t live long… but he was also sure Wei Su would tell the truth to their children, so there was this kind of trust between them.
Ouch, Wei Zhao fearing that Wei Chongrong might become power-hungry some time in the future breaks my heart. Wei Zhao should know his son better 🙂 But this is the reality of the imperial family, and there are countless examples of it: power corrupts people. The alternative for the emperor is either to die young, while you’re still pure and idealistic, or… Of course, Wei Zhao hopes that his son will live a long, long life. But it also means that no one can say what happens thirty or forty years later. Will Wei Chongrong remain the same after holding absolute power for decades? This is what Wei Zhao is worried about.
But, thanks to the sequel, we know that it doesn’t happen. No one in Wei Chongrong’s family is a rotten apple, everyone is good and loving! 🙂