Chapter 1 – Li Er’s youngest brother
Summer came early on the 13th year of Zhengguan, it was already turning warm by mid-March. The imperial court is thus busy preparing to leave for Jiucheng Palace to escape the summer heat.
Under the supervision of experts, Taiji palace was built strategically off Feng Shui principles but on low-lying grounds making it hot and humid during summer. It would be bearable for the able-bodied but for his Majesty Li Er  Li Er – more widely known as by his birth name Li ShiMin or as Emperor Taizong of Tang. who has toiled all year long with a weaken body, summer in Taiji Palace was unbearable.
In the 13 years that he had ruled, his Majesty occasionally brings the imperial family to Jiucheng Palace to escape summer. This year’s attendee includes a very special child, his youngest bother Li Yuanying.
At the mention of Li Yuanying, many would scrunch their forehead in disapproval simply because even as a young child he truly is a troublemaker.
Li Yuanying was born on the 4th year of Zhengguan also the 4th year Li Er ascended to the throne as Emperor.
His Majesty is known as Li Er as he is the second child. And the way he ascended to the throne is infamously known as the XuanWu Gate incident. On a beautiful sunny morning he ambushed and killed his brothers at XuanWu Gate then requested his bloodied general YuChi JingDe to meet his father for a discussion “Alas it has become like this, what to do?”. Hearing this, his father had no choice but to make him the crown prince and a few months later stepped down to become Emperor Emeritus.
After spending a few years cleaning up the entire court His Majesty politely invited the Emperor Emeritus who was at that time living in Taiji Palace to move to Da’an Palace.
Da’an Palace was initially called Hongyi Palace and was bestowed to Li Er by the previous emperor. Life is a cycle, whatever residential you bestowed upon your son will be the same residential you will live in now.
Since stepping down, the former emperor is no longer interested in courtly affairs but has instead fully immersed himself into worldly pleasures. Li Yuanying was thus born when the former Emperor was of the ripe age of sixty-four.
Like most parents who favoured their youngest child, his majesty was the same. How much does he favour his son? Even when Li Yuanying pulled his beard, he would proudly brag “Such an intelligent child”.
Li Yuanying hence grew up spoilt. He has pretty much pulled everyone’s beard from the former emperor to His Majesty Li Er to the ministers of court! Even more outrageous, he once sneakily unbuckled Li Er’s golden belt resulting in it falling off with a loud bang when he arise to toast with his ministers.
All in all, Li Yuanying was truly troublemaker all his life. Only the former emperor was biased in thinking that he was clever and adorable.
Before his passing, the former emperor wholeheartedly entrusted his precious child to Li Er. What can his majesty do but to accept? With Li Yuanying being only five he was too young to be given a title and hence his Majesty accepted him into Taiji Palace to be educated together with his own children.
Li Er’s attitude towards children was similar to how one would treat their pets, left to professional help only to be summoned for amusement when they crossed his mind. Naturally that was how Li Yuanying was also treated.
The children’s reaction towards moving to Jiucheng Palace was out of Li Er’s expectation
First Sizi excitedly approached him. “Father, can we bring young uncle along?”
Then ChengYang shyly approached him. “Father, can we bring young uncle along?”
Later, HengShan sweetly approached him. “Father, can we bring young uncle along?”
Followed by Li Zhi who mustered up all his courage and approached him. “Father, can we bring young uncle along?”
His Majesty felt that this was unusual. Given that these children are legitimate children between him and Empress Zhangsun, they were treated more favourably than other prince and princesses and would not be easily persuaded or instructed by others. Li Er decided to not react outwardly and asked Li Yuanying’s name to be added to the entourage list, ready to observe this younger brother.
As summer arrives, the imperial court packed up their bags and set off for Jiucheng Palace.
Jiucheng Palace was built during the Sui Dynasty and was previously called Renshou Palace. His Majesty thinks that it’s too wasteful to demolish it entirely and to rebuild a new summer palace hence it was simply refurbished for its intended use.
Following behind His Majesty’s carriage was a carriage filled with young children who were chatting excitedly. The leader was Li Yuanying aged nine. Blessed with outstanding features – a handsome face, red lips with pearly white teeth and a pleasing voice clear as spring that always utter pleasantries from it:
“It was said that Jiucheng Palace was short of water after it was refurbished. Lord brother and sister-in-law wandered around and found a place that was abnormally humid and poked it with something resulting in spring water emerging. Lord brother was extremely pleased and asked Wei Zheng to write “Jiucheng Palace Liquan Inscription” “Jiucheng Palace Liquan Inscription” – Record of the discovery of water spring at Jiucheng Palace . A famous inscription from Tang Dynasty. Will just be referring to this as “the … Continue reading while Ouyang Xun was asked to inscribe it.” (Li yuanying)
“Oh yes, I heard of this! Ouyang’s handwriting is great and we usually practice his characters.” (Prince of Jin – Li Zhi)
Li Zhi is Li Yuanying’s nephew but in reality he was 2 years older and much more matured behaving than Li Yuanying.
Li Yuanying’s ludicrous behavior left a lingering bad impression on many hence everyone had low expectations from him, so long he is able to read and recognize words, no one expected him to comprehend literature or produce good calligraphy work. As for skills like riding, archery, music and chess it was left to his discretion and interest.
In the carriage, Li Yuanying led the discussion on playtime plans. As a matter of fact, he did not simply bring up “Jiucheng Palace Liquan Inscription” on a whim. It was because he received a new mission by the system.
That’s the reason why Li Yuanying was willing to travel away from the palace. You must empathize with me that travelling these days is a major pain. First, the roads are bad. Second, the carriage is uncomfortable and hurts my ass. If it’s not for a mission, who is willing to travel far?
Talking about the system or his personal mission leads us back to Li Yuanying’s encounter a few years ago.
It was a winter month with heavy snow fall. Being bored, Li Yuangying thought of a new mischievous antic, to bury an unfortunate servant deep into the snow. When others were shivering outside he burst out laughing amused while enjoying the warmth and comfort with a warmer indoors.
Yuanying’s mother was shocked and angry and wanted to teach him a lesson only to be rebuked.
“I’ve only imposed a small punishment, see if he dares to disrespect mother anymore!”
Reduced to tears his mother rebutted “Son, father is gone. You cannot behave wilfully anymore.”
Being young he was ignorant of what “Father is gone” meant but seeing his mother crying sadly, he promised to not misbehave anymore. Though he still couldn’t fall asleep as he was still angry about his perceived injustice.
It was then a mysterious mission based system entered his mind: Myriad Realm Library.
Strangely despite not learning the language he was able to fully comprehend them. Once figuring out what a library is he instantly lost interest. For who would be excited about books? For a long time Yuanying ignored the existence of Myriad Realm Library. It kept prompting him that he’s lacking in levels and needed to complete missions. Who would waste such time & effort!
Until one time, the system gave Yuanying a trial taste of a piece of chocolate candy and indicated that if it’s tasty he should do the task and get rewarded with a full bag of it! Under the temptation of chocolate candies, Li Yuanying relented and borrowed a book from Li Zhi and worked hard to finish it.
Even under the temptation of delicious chocolate candies, Li Yuanying still dislike reading. Within the past three years he hasn’t even completed ten books. After all he doesn’t lack in necessities, chocolate candy loses its appeal after a few tries.
This time the system indicated that they would reward him with a big bottle of Coke should he successfully locate “Record of the discovery of water spring at Jiucheng Palace”. After weighing the pros and cons Li Yuanying decided to travel to Jiucheng palace to complete his mission.
Using a few pieces of chocolate candy, he managed to convince his friends to ask His Majesty to bring him along. Next up is to locate “the inscription ” and a large bottle of Coke is mine!
Easy! Happy! Great!
Being in a good mood he started telling fairy tales to his nephews and nieces. To establish his status of being the senior Li Yuanying worked hard reading “The Analects” in exchange for “Fairy Tales of Wilde” from the system to show off!
According to the system, these stories are largely unheard of in this era. They are heart-warming stories suitable for all ages and are extremely popular with the later generations. Li Yuanying was convinced and started telling stories to Princess Jinyang and the others.
Among the many children of Emperor Li Er, Princess Jinyang (nickname Sizi) is the most favoured. Despite her young age she resembles her queen mother more and more each day. After the demise of Empress Changsun, His Majesty was in grief and often kept Sizi by his side.
At the beginning of the journey His Majesty wanted Sizi to ride with him but Sizi refused as she wanted to listen to Li Yuanying’s story making His Majesty extremely curious on what the story was about.
The royal entourage finally arrived at Jiucheng Palace on a sunny afternoon. Thinking about his, children his majesty instructed them to be brought to him. Apart from Li Zhi the remaining 3 children were sobbing. Seeing his majesty Sizi plunged into her father’s arms and burst into tears.
His Majesty startled and angry: “ZhiNu (Li Zhi)! Who bullied your sister?!”
Li Zhi hesitantly said, “No, Uncle told us a story.”
His Majesty did not believe him and asked: “What story can make everyone cry?”
Sizi wiped away her tears and replied: “It’s the Happy Prince! The Happy Prince and Little Swallow are so pitiful! Little Swallow’s friends are still far away waiting for him, but he can’t go there!”
|↑1||Li Er – more widely known as by his birth name Li ShiMin or as Emperor Taizong of Tang.|
|↑2||“Jiucheng Palace Liquan Inscription” – Record of the discovery of water spring at Jiucheng Palace . A famous inscription from Tang Dynasty. Will just be referring to this as “the inscription” in future chapters.|