Li Yuanying had a good night’s sleep and when he woke up it was already sunny outside. He got dressed with help of his servants and ran out to see the tall linden tree growing in his courtyard. All the leaves had fallen off, leaving only a bare trunk standing in the courtyard.
Li Yuanying stood under it and looked around. He found a nest hidden in it but it was already in tatters and obviously had no birds.
There were no birds in the palace. This is because a special group is tasked with driving away birds that tries to build nests within the palace compound.
Li Yuanying hadn’t seen a nest before but when he saw the round thing, he knows its a bird nest. On a whim, he rolled up his sleeves and climbed the tree to take a closer look!
Yuanying was the last to wake up among all the small radish heads. The rest were all waiting for him to no avail and had all decided to come over to wake him up. As they arrived, Sizi immediately made a silent gesture and directing them to walk under the tree and to look up. They saw young uncle touching a round nest and casually holding it in his hands.
Yuanying looked down and saw a circle of people under the tree! He excitedly brought the bird’s nest to share this novelty with them.
“It’s already winter and this nest looks pretty solid. But it’s cold and the birds have all flown away. “
The group gathered around the nest and examine it. You poke and I poke, You look and I look. They all found it very strange. While they were halfway examining it, they heard a cry from outside.
Yuanying turned to look and saw tearful Little Round Ball running towards him and threw himself into his arms and sobbing nonstop.
“What’s the matter? Who bullied you?” (Li YuanYing)
“Papa bad, Papa scolds me.” (Little Round Ball)
Yuanying coaxed the toddler patiently and got to know the whole story from him. Little Round Ball played with papa early in the morning, Li Tai in a bad mood scolded him and asked him to play by himself. The child felt horrible and so he ran over here.
Yuanying glanced at the servants and court ladies who remained at a distance. He did not comment on Li Tai’s actions but coaxed: “Mama will be sad if you run out alone, did you let her know you are here?”
Little Round Ball held back tears and shook his head.
“You are a man, so you can’t make a girl cry. Next time you have to let Mama know first. Do you understand?”
Little Round Ball thought for a while, then nodded seriously.
Yuanying instructed the servants to inform Princess Yan that Little Round Ball was with him and then took the child to examine the bird’s nest together. He then explained to the group that birds had a habit of flying south in winter.
Even birds know how to fly to warm places to seek shelter and to survive the cold winter. The same is for humans. Little Round Ball nestled in Yuanying’s arms happily and listened to his story about migratory birds. He plans to share this with Mama when he goes back later to make her happy.
Li Er had ordered that a vegetarian meal be prepared. He waited but didn’t see anyone coming so he asked his men to look for his children. Li Yuanying had to put aside the nest and took his friends to have breakfast together with the Emperor.
Sizi couldn’t hold back and immediately shared about seeing a nest to Li Er.
Little Round Ball nodded and gestured: “It’s so big!”
Li Er immediately grasped the key point: “Where is the bird’s nest?”
When Sizi heard it, she realized that they were busted and quickly covers her mouth refusing to say more.
Although Little Round Ball didn’t know how to lie, he didn’t know that Li Yuanying took the nest by climbing a tree, so he shook his head too.
Regardless Li Er can guess it accurately.
Li Yuanying is the only one who liked to do such things. No matter how tall the tree is, he will climb it and after that he would accuse others of scaring him under the tree!
Li Er turned to Li Yuanying.
Sensing trouble, Li Yuanying said in a hurry: “Brother, I am full!”
After speaking and before Li Er could react, the boy had already run away. He did not dare to approach the Emperor again.
The group rested for another half a month and finally it was time to return to Chang’an. When Li Yuanying came to Louyang, he came empty-handed. But now that he’s returning home, he had a few carriages of stuff. Some were good calligraphy and paintings that he got from Chu Suiliang and some were gifts he had collected for relatives and friends who had to stay back in the Capital but mainly it was stuff for his mother. Well he had some stuff for his eldest nephew but much less. After all Chenqian is an adult, he is just gifting as a courtesy gesture to him!
Since Yuanying found out the date of departure, he has been obsessed with hoarding things big and small. This one is delicious, that one is fun. Yuanying was reluctant to leave anything behind and so he brings everything home with him. He got to know that Peonies were of the best variant in Luoyang, so he brought some back to Chang’an! After instructing his men to pack, he then ran over to meet Li Er.
“Brother, can I bring something back to Chang’an?”
“Take whatever you want. Why are you asking me?”
Li Yuanying ran away happily.
On the day of departure, Li Er instantly regretted his words.
Because his younger brother packed several carts of stuff. Along with the other children, they occupied another carriage. Following behind the Emperor, it looked as if the Emperor wasn’t here for a visit but to rob the people!
But a promise is a promise. Although Li Er was tempted to hit his brother, he didn’t throw away his things.
As the Royal entourage made their journey home, they attracted lots of attention and some people started discussing about the many carts carrying Li Yuanying’s things. Some were wondering if the Emperor found hidden treasures and is taking it home. One merchants wasn’t satisfied with this discussion so he quickly clarified: “Of Course not! Those are things that Prince Teng had purchased. You guys didn’t see it but he took the princesses shopping and spent generously. He event purchased some windmill from me! See see, there it is. Look at my windmills turning.”
All the other merchants quickly came to their defense and took this opportunity to do self-promotion. My items are so good that even the prince and princesses praised them!
These quick-witted shopkeepers benefited much. Although people were dubious, they still bought the inexpensive items curiously to check out if it was indeed good enough that the noblemen liked it!
Then someone pointed at a few flower growers following behind the party and a new round of discussion started—
“Isn’t he from our village? He has the best skills in our village!”
“I heard that Prince Teng recruited several good gardeners back to Chang’an. He even allowed them to bring their family along!”
“Getting a Nobleman’s attention! They will be rich and powerful in the future!”
“I heard that His Royal Highness Prince Teng is generous in everything he does. Not only did he ask for gardeners but he also looked for people who are good at raising livestock!”
“It’s a pity that His Highness is already returning to Chang’an. Otherwise I would go with him too! Look at how upright the men are walking, it’s as if they are afraid that no one will recognize him!”
“It’s not too late, haven’t you read the notice posted in the city? Anyone with skill can visit Xiangcheng Palace to try their luck!”
Although Li Yuanying was already on his way back to Chang’an, discussion about him did not fade but became more heated. With the New Year approaching and families and friends meet up were more frequent.
For the longest time, members of the Royal family were distant from the common people and they knew nothing about them. It is rare to meet such an approachable little prince so the enthusiasm to discuss about him will not fade so easily especially for those who had direct contact with him. Such an honorable incident, of course one need to brag about it for a year or two!
Yuanying had already put all these things behind him as he now face a serious problem: According to spy Wei Shu, Wei Ying has been studying very hard lately! This might derail their plan of making him rank last in the exam!
Li Yuanying had an unyielding drive to beat Wei Ying in the exam. How could he fail the exam?! Considering that Kong Yingda will start the exams upon them returning, Yuanying decided to have tuition session in the warm carriage with his friends!
Although the cold wind was blowing, the sound of reading could be heard from the carriage of the group of little radish heads. Occasionally, Little Round Ball would join them too. It seems that the next generation Royals had very high enthusiasm for learning.
While they group was on the way, news from Luoyang has reached Chang’an. The person entrusted by the Emperor to watch over the Capital state was Chancellor Gao Shilian. He is the uncle of Empress Zhangsun and Zhangsun Wuji and an elder to Li Chengqian and the others.
Hearing that the Emperor was in Yique to hunt and to visit the Buddhist Cave, Gao Shilian was a little worried. It is a good thing that Li Tai is filial, but if you observe his actions in the last few years it is obvious that he wishes to challenge Li Chengqian. Many courtiers have either secretly defected to one side or have made bets on them. Anyone with a discerning eye can see the signs of war starting between both brothers.
Both children are direct descendants of Empress Zhangsun and are nephews to Gao Shilian. Does he want to watch them repeat the mistakes of their father and fight each other?
Gao Shilian frowned as he enters the palace with news.
Li Chengqian finds Yu Zhining and the others annoying, but he respected Gao Shilian who he calls “uncle” in private.
When Gao Shilian came to visit, Chengqian was playing wooden blocks with Li Xiang. This was a gift from Li Yuanying. You arrange the blocks according to a certain distance and finally push them all down creating a domino effect.
Li Xiang likes it very much. Every time father is free, he pulls him to play together.
Chengqian invited Gao Shilian in. Seeing father and his son playing happily, Gao Shilian relaxed and paid his respect.
Li Xiang looked at the gray-haired man curiously and softly followed Chengqian’s instructions to say hello to the old man he had never met before. He then invited him to play together. IThe child only left to look for the Crown Princess after playing two rounds. Finally Li Chengqian and Gao Shilian could talk.
Seeing Chengqian playing with Li Xiang so patiently, Gao thought that he didn’t know about the Emperor going to Yique so he told him the news.
“Young uncle sent me a letter a few days ago about this.”
Thinking back about what Li Yuanying wrote in the letter, Chengqian wanted to laugh out loud.
Originally, Yuanying reported that they went to Yique Buddhist Cave because Li Tai commissioned a Buddha statue for their late mother. Chenqian wonders if his brother is doing this in remembrance of his late mother or as an opportunity to spread his name. But reading what young uncle wrote next Chengqian’s doubts disappeared immediately. No matter what fourth brother thinks, with Li Yuanying’s disturbance he would be so angry that he will be half dead.
So he wasn’t worried and spent his days playing with his child with a set of beautiful wooden blocks that young uncle sent back with the letter.
Li Chengqian explained: “Qingque has such filial piety, the spirit of mother in heaven will be happy.”
Gao Shilian saw that Chengqian’s expression was carefree. He praised him for being a good big brother, overjoyed that his eldest nephew is gradually acting like the Crown Prince. Now that he saw this great nephew with a big heart, Gao Shilian stopped talking about serious topic and boasted: “I think Xiang’er is growing more and more into an obedient child.”
Chengqian loves his son. It’s rare to meet an elder who praises his son and Chengqian immediately started sharing interesting things about his son. The love for his son was overflowing in words.
Notes from the author:
Little Prince: The future belongs to the next generation!
Little Prince: The next generation belongs to me!
His Majesty Li Er: Get out!