By the time the group reach Chang’an it was already passed December. Chengqian led the ministers out to the city gate to welcome them home. He ended up being shocked by young uncle. They had a prior agreement to meet up quietly after this as young uncle shared that he needed help to carry things. Things referred to all the presents he got for them from Louyang!
Initially Chengqian didn’t pay much attention but when he looked towards the direction that young uncle was pointing at, he was startled by the multiple carts of gifts. He glanced towards father but seeing that the Emperor is silent, he ordered his men to get enough manpower to move Yuanying’s things back to the palace and then to deliver them to their right recipient according to a name list.
After Li Yuanying met his eldest nephew, he happily went home to meet with mother.
Lady Liu had not seen her son for more than half a year and misses him dearly. She kept pulling onto him to get a closer look and then instructed that food she had personally cooked be served to him. With her child gone, Lady Liu studied the recipes sent back by Yuanying. As these are her child’s favourite food, she had a goal in mind. Now that he’s back, she naturally prepared a whole table full of delicious food for him to try.
When it comes to food, Yuanying welcomes it. Whichever dish mother wanted him to try he gladly comply and kept praising her for the taste.
“Mother, when we go to our own land I will get someone to open a big shop on your behalf. We will sell all the dishes that you have invented and call it Liu’s recipes. When someone mention these delicious dishes in the future , they will think of you right away!”
“Alright, I’ll write down all the recipes. You find someone to open the shop.”
Yuanying tasted all the dishes available contentedly and then took another bite of the smoked egg. This dish is first simmered with Lady Liu’s secret ingredients, air dried and then cut into balanced thin slices at the right timing. It has a salty fragrance and a unique taste. The boy ate several pieces before he was satisfied.
Mother and son chatted while eating and time passed by quickly. Yuanying decided to take a nap in his room and realized that his bedding had been replaced with new ones that were warm and soft. He got into bed thinking about how to torture his brother into allowing him to leave for his fief earlier. He slowly drifted into sleep soundly and had a particularly beautiful dream.
It was approaching the year end and officials from all over the country had returned to the capital city. Princes who were sent away also obtained the Emperor’s permission to return and celebrate his birthday. One such vassal prince was third Prince Li Ke. After returning, he visited his father and then his mother Consort Yang.
Consort Yang was a princess from the previous Sui Dynasty. She was given to Li Er when he was still Prince Qin and gave birth to the third Prince Li Ke. As Li Er became the Emperor, she also entered into the imperial harem and birthed another son – sixth Prince Li Yin. Even as a princess in Sui she was not given much attention. Therefore, her sons were sent out into their own lands at an early age of 12 or 13.
Knowing that Li Ke is back, Consort Yang was looking forward to meeting him. According to local customs, vassal princes had to reside in a special mansion and is not allowed to stay overnight in the palace. Consort Yang felt bittersweet and held onto Li Ke’s hands while chatting.
Li Ke and Li Yin were in similar situation whereby they would be picked on if they commit the smallest mistake. He would even be scolded for something small like going for a hunt. However it was rare to meet mother and so he only talked abut happy things.
After meeting Consort Yang, Li Ke asked for her help to send gifts to his younger brothers and sisters who he got along with. Since he is stationed far away, he cannot take care of Consort Yang. Since he is back now momentarily, he naturally brought gifts in hopes that someone would stand up for mother when the situation arises.
Consort Yang looked at her son who thought of everything and her nose felt a little sore.
Although Li Ke was the third prince, he was actually born in the same year as crown prince Li Chengqian and second prince Li Kuan. Li Kuan passed away early and was adopted by another son of the late Emperor. With that, Li Ke is actually next in line to the throne after Li Chengqian. If he weren’t birth by a lowly princess of the previous fallen dynasty he would not have to live so humbly and under such harsh criticism. Look at the fourth and ninth prince, both were cherished by the Emperor to the point that he was reluctant to send them away.
But that’s just life. Parents can’t choose their children and children can’t choose their parents. Consort Yang responded in agreement to all of Li Ke’s requests. While they were parting, she raised her hands to gently caress his cheek with tear stained eyes.
“There’s nothing lacking in the palace and the servants are attentive. Don’t worry. Listen to your father and do things that make him happy.”
Li Ke nodded but when he left for home alone he started thinking. If he were to follow his father’s wishes then he should behave like the meaning behind the name he was given. Abide by his duties only, don’t think about more or do anything more.
Gao Yang wasn’t aware that Li Ke is back until she received his gift. She still had a little memory of this older brother as he was kind to her when she was much younger. He is quite unlike brother Chengqian who always felt distant.
Gao Yang has been very well-behaved lately and has been bored out of her mind. Early next morning she ran out looking for young uncle. She wanted him to bring her out to meet this great older brother who remembers to bring her a gift despite them being apart for so long.
Yuanying thought deeper and realized that since he has close to no contact with princes that has left for their own territory, he had no idea what is to be expected when he reaches his own fiefdom. In addition, he has been playing the role of the good son lately and often accompanied Lady Liu. He agreed to Gao Yang’s proposal immediately.
Yuanying informed his mom and then got a group of friends together to go visit Li Ke. He mainly wanted to bring Li Zhi along because he is now 13 and is almost of age to be independent. He should get to know everything about being in their fief early.
Since Yuanying has been brainwashing Li Zhi for a long time, he now has less resistance about leaving Chang’an. Instead, he really wants to be independent and do some good for the country. He will not be a useless moth who harms the country by leeching off the wealth of the Royal family while waiting to die. He followed Yuanying out to visit Li Ke, but they bumped into other vassal princes by coincidence.
Yuanying thought that since customs are different in different locations he wanted to know more. Therefore he eagerly sat down and chatted with them as they were all either his “brothers” or “nephews”. Yuanying is great at making new friends. With every mention of “brother” or “nephew” and even though they have never met, he managed to trick all of them with his enthusiasm and shameless attitude.
Winter solstice has passed and the weather is getting colder. Yuanying did not choose a place that looked elegant but was exposed to the cold. He instead choose to heat up a stove and wrapped himself in warm blankets and brewed hot tea. He steered topics towards items like if anyone had seen anything strange or what kind of special attention is needed when on foreign lands. When he encountered someone whose land is close by his fief he asked many questions. It is as if Yuanying’s heart has left for his own land.
Gao Yang and the rest were initially happy to listen to such stories but when they realized that young uncle is probing deep about Teng Prefecture (Yuanying’s fief) they were quite unhappy.
Gao Yang quietly asked Li Ke: “Third brother, after leaving is it true that you can’t come back casually?”
Li Ke nodded.
Let’s not talk about meeting siblings. Even if it was his mother Consort Yang, he hadn’t had much chance to meet her. It will be better for Yuanying as his late father has passed away. This means that he can bring Lady Liu along and mother and child will never be separated.
Sizi and the others sat next to Gao Yang and could hear everything clearly. They all had the same thought: once young uncle leaves they will have very little chances of meeting him again!
After the party, they children returned to the palace. Li Yuanying returned home with lots of “experiences” and was very excited. However he failed to notice that the little lolis were distressed.
Back in the palace, the sisters went looking for the Emperor. They surrounded him and begged: “Father, we don’t want Young uncle to leave for his own land”
Li Er hugged Sizi and asked: “Why did you bring up this matter suddenly?”
Sizi told him all about how Li Yuanying and Li Zhi probe the other vassal princes for advise and then grabbed onto the Emperor’s arm.
“Father, I don’t want to part with young uncle. Can’t we keep young uncle in Chang’an like fourth brother?”
Li Er said with a smile: “You only miss young uncle but not ninth brother?”
“Ninth brother too!” (Sizi)
“Father, please keep young uncle and ninth brother in Chang’an!” (Gao Yang)
Facing the wishful puppy eyes of the four little lolis the Emperor gave in. He gave them a hint in advance: “At least for the next two years, they will not leave.”
Sizi cheered and then kissed father on the cheek.
“Are you now learning about the kissing traditions of foreigners by going out with your young uncle?”
Sizi became a bit shy but still happily boasted: “Father is the best!”
Li Er took a walk after dinner while listening to reports gathered from the vassal princes during the day. Being aware that Li Yuanying has been calling everyone brother and nephew and even chatted with many of them, Li Er paused and turned towards Li Yuanying’s home.
Yuanying was in his small study sorting out the “experiences” he gathered during the day. As he was excited, he started telling those serving him about his plans and that he would assign them good jobs so that they can boast about it.
When Li Yuanying said this, the servants accompanying him naturally smiled.
These people were able to stay with Prince Teng for long. They naturally had to be quick-witted and good at telling stories. As they were alone, they were free to give advice to Prince Teng. Everyone knows that Yuanying is generous. If you give a good suggestion, he can reward you with a gold bead casually!
As Li Er approached, he heard laughter coming from the small study but couldn’t hear what they were talking about.
Laughter in the room only stopped abruptly when the guards suddenly saluted the Emperor in panic.
This seems to be the most common thing to happen to Li Er after he became the Emperor. No matter how happy or how much laughter there was, as long as people heard that he was coming they would all calm down and greet him respectfully.
Li Er approached the small study.
Yuanying ran forward to welcome him and asked in surprise, “Brother, why are you here?”
Before Li Er could answer, Yuanying began to express his opinion again: “It’s such a beautiful night, you should visit the imperial harem. You have at least a hundred concubines waiting for your love. How can you pamper them with so few visits?!”
Li Er glared at him.
Li Yuanying immediately changed his tune: “But it’s also right that you go less. Master Sun said that too much of anything will hurt the body, especially that. He even advise me to keep my child like innocence for a few more years , otherwise it will be bad for my health!”
“Don’t simply talk about everything!” Is the Imperial Harem something that a prince can talk about? Even with Wu Mei’s incident, he hasn’t learn. Is the harem something he should talk about?!
Li Yuanying shut up obediently.
Li Er picked up Li Yuanying’s writing about his “experience”. Upon close look, the Emperor found that it was written in an orderly manner. He finished the whole article.
“Not bad. You finish this early and send it to me before my birthday. I’ll ask someone to duplicate a few more copies and share it with your brother and nephews. Even those who didn’t return this time.”
If it was another person they would be extremely happy to get Li Er’s affirmation but not Li Yuanying.
“I worked so hard to collect and organize this. Why should I give it to you!”
Li Er glared at him.
Li Yuanying is never afraid of the Emperor and so he took this as an opportunity to take advantage of him with a brave face.
“Lord Brother, I heard that there is a hill in the southern suburbs that belongs to the royal family and there are bamboos all over the mountains. Can you give me all the bamboos? I don’t want the mountain, just the bamboo will do!”
“What do you want bamboo for?”
“Can’t tell you now!” He then leaned close to Li Er and secretly whispered to him. “If you promise to give them to me, I will give you a treasure in spring in return!”
Li Er glanced at Li Yuanying who was approaching him and readily agreed.
“Okay, I will give you all the bamboo.”
Notes from the author:
Little Prince: Brother can you give me this!
His Majesty Li Er: Take it!
Little Prince: I want that too!
His Majesty Li Er: Take it!
Little Prince: And——
His Majesty Li Er: Get out! ! !