Seeing his older brother riding the horse so majestically, Baozi’s eyes were full of longing. Huo Feng saw this and asked: “Baozi wants to ride a horse?”
Baozi looked towards daddy. He wanted to ride. Huo Feng let the carriage stop and directly carried Baozi out, saying: “Father will take you to ride a horse.”
Once Douzi heard this, he also wanted to go, so Yi Chongren accepted his fate and got out of the carriage.
“Chongren, you bring Douzi, and I’ll bring Baozi.”
In a natural manner, Huo Feng had someone lead a horse over and carried Baozi onto the horse. Yi Chongren was stunned for a moment.
“Daddy.” Douzi pulled daddy’s hand. He also wanted to ride a horse.
Yi Chongren returned to his senses. At this time, someone led a horse over, and he silently carried Douzi onto the horse.
“Chongren, let’s take the children to the front and then turn back.”
Huo Feng appeared to be in a good mood, and not caring whether Yi Chongren agreed, he smacked the horse’s ass, and the horse sped forward. Baozi’s laugh sounded.
“Daddy, let’s chase Baozi and father.” Douzi couldn’t wait.
Yi Chongren waved his whip, and in front of him, the man turned his head to signal for him to follow with a relaxed smile on his face: “Chongren, hurry up, I’m going to turn around.”
Yi Chongren rode over as Douzi and Baozi laughed.
“Father (daddy), faster.”
Yi Chongren’s heart pounded a bit faster than usual. In his memory, this was the first time that person called his own name. He couldn’t help but frown. He disliked this feeling, disliked it very much.
Zhang Huaiqiu also frowned from behind them with a thoughtful look on his face. He clearly heard Prince Yue call “Chongren” a few times just now. What made him even more doubtful was how Prince Yue referred to himself, using “I”, not “this prince”. Zhang Huaiqiu slightly narrowed his eyes, watching Prince Yue with a bit more scrutiny.
“Huaiqiu, what are you worried about?” Ruan Xingtian called. Because of Huo Feng’s attitude towards Yi Chongren, Zhang Huaiqiu hadn’t said much to Ruan Xingtian over the past few days. He naturally wasn’t in the best spirits, so Ruan Xingtian was helpless.
Zhang Huaiqiu lowered his voice and said with a slightly threatening tone: “Chongren and I are brothers, family, close friends. I won’t let anyone hurt him, including his highness.”
Ruan Xingtian suppressed his displeasure: “Do you think his highness will hurt Yi Chongren? You’ve worked at his highness’s side for so many years. Could it be that you still don’t trust his highness?”
Zhang Huaiqiu looked towards Ruan Xingtian: “Then tell me. Once we reach the capital, where does his highness plan to place Chongren?”
Ruan Xingtian was speechless. Yi Chongren couldn’t become an official, would he go back to the palace to be a eunuch? Thinking of Yi Chongren’s eyes, Ruan Xingtian didn’t think he’d be willing. So where did his highness plan to place Yi Chongren? Ruan Xingtian was stumped.
“If his highness wants Chongren to go back to being a eunuch, I’ll take him away.” Spitting out these resolute words, because Zhang Huaiqiu was dissatisfied with Prince Yue, he was also dissatisfied with Ruan Xingtian. Riding his horse away, Zhang Huaiqiu obviously cast his dissatisfaction with Prince Yue onto Ruan Xingtian. Ruan Xingtian smiled bitterly. This really was a disaster.
Naturally, Huo Feng didn’t hide his path. He did not intend to conceal it. The more people who knew where he was, the safer they were. The cities and towns they encountered on the way had long made preparations to meet them. He had yet to ascend the throne, but to the common people of Southern Chu, he was already Southern Chu’s new leader, so naturally, they didn’t dare to disregard him. Every time they reached a city, Huo Feng stationed his troops outside the city, and he led the others into the city. At first, the two children were confused about why “daddy” had to be called father, but gradually, their young hearts realized that father was more powerful than daddy because the people who came to pick them up all respected father very much, even kneeling to father. But they couldn’t understand why so many people feared daddy. Sometimes children are the most sensitive. The people who knew that the man next to Prince Yue was Yi Chongren were afraid. The remaining power of Lord Qianhu of the Hu An guards was visible.
To Yi Chongren, no matter whether Huo Feng could see through him or not, whether those people feared him or not, he was calm. His only worry was that the two children had to travel so far for their first journey outside. He feared they wouldn’t eat enough, but so far, the two children’s adaptability seemed quite good. And after his initial discomfort, Yi Chongren became numb towards being frequently called “Chongren” by Huo Feng.
There were old people and children in the group, so their speed naturally wasn’t very fast. Moving and stopping like this, after a month, the capital gates appeared before their eyes. Yi Chongren felt complicated. In the past, he thought he’d never return.
“Baozi, Douzi, we’re home.”
Huo Feng was visibly excited. Of course he was excited. After returning to the capital, he had the final say in many matters, and a certain someone couldn’t escape easily.
“Daddy, this is the capital?”
“Daddy, the capital gates are so tall.”
The two children, who had already learned how great the capital was from their father, couldn’t wait to see how the capital truly was.
Outside the city gates, the ministers, who learned of Prince Yue’s return in advance, had already waited there for a while. The leader of the group was former prime minister Zhang Deyuan. After Huo Feng conquered the capital, he let his subordinates deal with the aftermath while he took Ruan Xingtian and Zhang Huaiqiu to Jade City Pass to “capture people”. He didn’t explain how to deal with official resignations, enthronement, and other matters. The country couldn’t go without a ruler for a day, especially at the start of a new reign, so Prince Yue’s safe return allowed the anxious ministers to let out a sigh of relief. But thinking about the person who returned with Prince Yue, many people felt complicated and even more confused. To express his gratitude, his highness only needed to issue an imperial edict. Why did he personally go? Everyone thought his highness personally went there not for Yi Chongren, but for the two children. Thinking of this, they could understand.
Huo Feng didn’t sit in the carriage. He rode a horse with Baozi in front. Yi Chongren also rode a horse with Douzi in front. Huo Yunkai rode behind his father, half the length of a horse away. When they reached the city gates, Huo Yunkai carried the children down, and Yi Chongren also dismounted. Huo Yunkai carried Baozi over. Zhang Deyuan and the ministers kowtowed in respect: “This official welcomes your majesty, welcomes your highness——”
Huo Feng supported Zhang Deyuan up with both hands, emotionally saying: “Thank you former prime minister for the hard work.”
“This old official didn’t do much. It was the concerted efforts of all these lords. Your highness, you should enter the palace.”
Enter the palace and become the owner of the imperial palace.
Huo Feng glanced at Yi Chongren and dismounted. Everyone followed his movements to glance at Yi Chongren. Yi Chongren nodded towards Zhang Deyuan, Xie Dan, and the others with a normal expression and silently dismounted.
“Enter the palace.”
With this command, all the ministers entered the place with Prince Yue. A new reign had come.
Contrary to many people’s expectations and within many people’s expectations, Huo Feng settled Yi Chongren in the palace with Baozi and Douzi. After Huo Feng entered the palace, he was so busy that it was difficult to see even his shadow. In comparison, Yi Chongren lived in the “Ning Shen palace” which was extraordinarily cold. “Ning Shen palace” sounded like it had an idyllic atmosphere far from the mortal world, but everyone knew this was a cold palace. Prince Yue placed Yi Chongren in a cold palace. This move made people rack their brains, but Prince Yue’s youngest son also lived there, so no one could guess what his highness was thinking. No, his majesty.
The second day after Prince Yue returned, the imperial edict was issued. Southern Chu’s dynasty name changed to Yue and the era name became Kangzheng. The first year of the Kangzheng era, Prince Yue Huo Feng became the Kangzheng emperor. Huo Feng was part of the royal family of Southern Chu, but he changed the name of the dynasty to draw a clear line with Southern Chu. A month later, Huo Feng held the ascension ceremony in the former Southern Chu Imperial Palace. Immediately afterwards, various decrees were issued, including one that banned servants from using makeup and getting involved in politics to eliminate aberrant policies made by the eunuchs of Southern Chu and put an end to the dictatorship of eunuchs.
Along with the promulgation of various laws and decrees were awards for meritorious officials. Huo Feng followed the advice of Zhang Deyuan and sealed Ruan Xingtian, He Jia, Huang Han, and Xu Baicai as generals. The four of them were loyal and devoted and were subordinates that always followed him and worthy of his trust; the rest of the military leaders were divided into military generals, generals, or lieutenants based on merit. The military power was mainly in the hands of the four generals, and Huo Feng, as the emperor, held the vermillion bird, black tortoise, green dragon, and white tiger military talismans to control the four generals’ military power. The other high ranking military officers held thirty percent of the military power and were under the control of the four generals.
Huo Feng started off his career in the military, and he led the generals to win the world, so the military held him in high regard. It was unlikely that the four generals would use their military power for personal reasons, but it was best to have some precautions. After all, he had to consider whether the crown prince could control these generals after his death. But Huo Feng wasn’t worried. He believed that someone else would think more thoroughly than him.
Huo Feng initially wanted to seal Zhang Deyuan as the prime minister, but was rejected by the other party on the grounds that he was too old. Afterwards, Huo Feng asked Zhang Deyuan to teach Huo Yunkai, and this time, Zhang Deyuan didn’t reject him. All the old people saved by Yi Chongren chose to retire from the court. Naturally, Huo Feng was reluctant to just let them all go home like this, so after discussing with Tang Nian and the others, Huo Feng appointed Xie Dan as the teacher of Douzi and Baozi, and the others entered the capital university to teach at the Imperial Hanlin Academy. Unlike the elderly, Zhang Huaiqiu, Xie Ming, and the other youngsters entered the court, and Huo Feng arranged them in key positions. The new dynasty was set, and now was the time talents were most needed.
Xie Ming became the prime minister, Zhang Huaiqiu became the grand commander of the imperial army, and Tang Nian became the imperial secretary of the court of censors. Everyone who followed Huo Feng on his journey received their corresponding rewards, except for Yi Chongren. Ning Shen palace was in the remote southeast corner of the imperial palace. Huo Feng even sent people to guard outside Ning Shen palace. Yi Chongren could come in and out as he wished but he couldn’t leave the palace. If he ever left Ning Shen palace, the guards would definitely follow him. Huo Feng even sent seven or eight eunuchs to serve Yi Chongren and the two children. They weren’t lacking in food, clothing, and expenses. Apart from being a bit more remote, Yi Chongren didn’t seem to be “neglected”, but no matter how one looked at it, he seemed to be under house arrest.
Yi Chongren ignored the curiosity and speculation surrounding him. Ning Shen palace had a large courtyard. In the past, concubines who didn’t want to starve to death had to grow their own food, so Ning Shen palace had the most land. Yi Chongren took Baozi and Douzi there to sprinkle vegetable seeds, plant flowers, build a grape trellis, and even let people build two swings, just like in Lin manor.
This day, Zhang Huaiqiu went to find Yi Chongren. Yi Chongren had just watered the vegetables and had worked out a head of sweat. Yi Chongren motioned for his guards to leave and poured a cup of tea in the pavilion.
“What wind brought Lord Zhang here?” Yi Chongren teased.
Zhang Huaiqiu’s sullen expression directly explained his reason for coming: “Chongren, if you want to, I’ll take you out of here.” The emperor threw Chongren here, not the least bit concerned. Zhang Huaiqiu, who had long been dissatisfied, was about to explode.
Yi Chongren laughed and pushed the teacup in front of Zhang Huaiqiu: “Drink a cup of tea and calm down. Don’t you think it’s quite nice like this? It’s peaceful, and no one bothers me.”
“I asked his majesty what he planned to do with you, but his majesty said this only concerned him and you so I can’t interfere. Chongren, we’ve known each other for so long, I understand you. If it weren’t for Douzi, you definitely wouldn’t return to the capital, wouldn’t enter the palace. If you say the word, I’ll take you and Baozi away immediately.”
“Then what about Douzi?” Yi Chongren’s voice became a bit colder. He drank the tea, looked ahead, and unhurriedly said: “I’m not afraid of what they want to do to me. No matter how cruel he is, he can’t compare to Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu. I’m staying here for Douzi, to not separate Douzi and Baozi. Every day Douzi calls me dad, I am his dad. I also want to know what his majesty wants to do with me. Huaiqiu, you know that I’m someone who protects my weaknesses. At this time next year, his majesty might have other sons, but I won’t let anyone bully my sons. I want you to firmly control the imperial army, and tell old brother to advise his majesty to establish the crown prince as soon as possible. Also, Douzi’s position as a prince should also be confirmed soon.”
Looking at Yi Chongren’s profile, Zhang Huaiqiu seemed to once again see the Lord Qianhu of the Hu An guards who had everything in the palm of his hand. The corners of his lips curved upwards, and he drank the cup of tea Yi Chongren gave him. How could he forget who this person was? This person was the amazing person who destroyed all of Southern Chu.
“I know what to do.”
Putting down the teacup, Zhang Huaiqiu stood up: “Before the matter is settled, I won’t come find you again.”
Yi Chongren nodded. Now, countless eyes were secretly trained on him. What he wanted to do was respond to changes by not changing. Zhang Huaiqiu walked away, and in the old wives’ summer, Yi Chongren continued drinking his tea with a light heart.
“Huaiqiu went to find Chongren?”
In the imperial study, Huo Feng asked, unclear whether joyful or angry.
“Replying to your majesty, Lord Zhang talked with Lord Yi for a while before leaving.”
An eunuch standing behind Huo Feng bowed and said. This person was called Lu Tao. He used to be the eunuch in charge of Prince Yue manor. After Prince Yue manor was ransacked, he and others were imprisoned, initially giving them little chance to survive. But because of their relationship with Yi Chongren, these people were only exiled, saving their lives. After Huo Feng raised the troops, Lu Tao led a group to find Prince Yue with great pains. Lu Tao could be considered a sincere person, so Huo Feng ordered him to be a palace servant temporarily. Others envied Lu Tao for changing with the overall trend, but Lu Tao himself clearly understood that his majesty ordered him “temporarily”, which meant there was someone more suitable than him. Lu Tao immediately thought of that person in the “cold palace”.
His majesty reminded him more than once to take care of the people in Ning Shen palace and not let them be wronged. If Lu Tao still didn’t understand how much his majesty valued that person, then he wouldn’t be Lu Tao. These few years, he was most clear on how much his majesty thought about that person. As for his majesty’s thoughts, Lu Tao understood. But thinking of that person’s temperament and identity, Lu Tao was still a bit unsure. Letting Lu Tao retreat, Huo Feng contemplated in the imperial study. After quite a while, he stood, left the imperial study, and headed towards Ning Shen palace.
 Once again noting the difference between 我 and 本王. Maybe I should change all the “I” in the beginning of the novel to “this prince” for more distinction later.