By the time the three returned once again, they were exhausted, yet their spirits were exceptionally good. As soon as General Dai entered, his gaze locked onto the bamboo box on the table. Elder Weng stroked his beard and was also fixated on it. Emperor Yongming sat down, massaging his numb legs. “General, Teacher, what do you think? How should I reward Shao Yunan this time? Bestowing a dukedom upon him wouldn’t be excessive!”
After experiencing it firsthand, none of the three would doubt that the Empress’ unusual state today was related to this honey pomelo tea. General Dai was the most straightforward. “We must definitely reward him! A substantial reward!” Then he lowered his voice and said, “I wonder how much of this pomelo tea he can produce. The border soldiers are in great need!”
Elder Weng stroked his beard and said, “A reward is undoubtedly necessary, but it cannot happen immediately. The secret of the pomelo tea must be strictly guarded. Your Majesty, it would be best to order Dai Jiang to return to Yongxi County as soon as possible.”
Emperor Yongming nodded, “I also have that intention.”
General Dai asked, “Who is Shao Yunan exactly?”
Elder Weng replied, “An extraordinary individual. A wondrous person bestowed upon the Great State of Yan by the heavens.”
General Dai, “…”
After a light cough, General Dai turned and asked, “When does Your Majesty intend to summon Shao Yunan to the capital? I’m quite eager to meet that child. Putting aside other matters, the 3,500 taels of gold that he and his husband donated are something I must thank them for on behalf of the border soldiers.”
One point General Dai didn’t mention was that both Shao Yunan’s name and that of his missing grandson contained the character “An.” Suddenly, General Dai slapped his leg, “I’m truly muddled. I was in a hurry to enter the palace today, yet my leg didn’t hurt! No, it’s been quite a while since it last hurt! I consume four spoonfuls of the tonic bestowed by Your Majesty and the Empress every day. I’ve also received quite a few rewards for the food that Shao Yunan gave to you and the Empress.”
“Hiss…” Elder Weng was greatly surprised, “Could it be that the food Shao Yunan makes has healing effects?! Now that I think about it, I’ve been eating more recently, and when I sleep at night, I rest until dawn. Lately, it seems like my eyes aren’t as blurry as before.”
General Dai said, “I didn’t notice until you mentioned it. My eyes also seem less blurry!” Instantly, the room fell silent. The three exchanged glances, and beads of sweat formed on their backs. After a while, Elder Weng said solemnly, “This matter must not be spread!”
General Dai added, “We must make him come to the capital. In case others discover…”
Emperor Yongming pondered deeply, “After this year’s spring tea is processed, I will summon his family to the capital. This time, even if I don’t bestow upon him a dukedom, I will at least make him a marquis.”
Elder Weng said, “A title doesn’t matter much. The crucial thing is that he can’t stay in Xiushui Village any longer. The food he prepares hasn’t been consumed by many, but it’s still a considerable number.”
Both Emperor Yongming and General Dai nodded in agreement. Mentioning noble titles, General Dai casually asked, “What happened with the Marquis of Hengyuan? I heard that the eldest son of the Marquis of Hengyuan was ordered by His Majesty to be executed by dismemberment.”
It would have been better if General Dai hadn’t asked, but his inquiry immediately ignited Emperor Yongming’s anger. Elder Weng explained, “Wei Hongzheng went to Yongxi County to apprehend Shao Yunan, forcing him to reveal the formula for the new tea and wine. If he refused, his subordinates would torture and injure him. Furthermore, Wei Hongzheng was disrespectful in his speech towards His Majesty and the Empress. He deserves to be punished.”
Emperor Yongming said, “He cursed Qiyou to die early and said that my position is nothing more than an empty seat. Even if they, at the Marquis of Hengyuan’s estate, seized my treasures, I couldn’t do anything to them. He also said that Qiyou used seduction to gain favor with me.”
Elder Weng commented, “That’s the general idea, but the words he used were truly insulting to the ears of the virtuous.”
General Dai understood, “Does this lad think his head is too heavy? He’s spewing nonsense. Doesn’t he know that Shao Yunan is working for His Majesty and the Empress?”
“How could he not know! They simply don’t regard me at all! That Wei Chunlin is capable of raising such a son. It’s easy to imagine how he privately views me and the Empress. This time, I will not show leniency!”
General Dai added, “This matter cannot be treated lightly; otherwise, where would Your Majesty’s dignity be? There are people working hard to bring Your Majesty wealth; there’s no need to concern yourself with a Marquis of Hengyuan. You can simply dismiss him.” General Dai was a staunch hawk.
Emperor Yongming furrowed his brow, “Wei Chunlin must be dealt with, but I haven’t decided what to do with his two legitimate eldest sons yet.”
Both General Dai and Elder Weng nodded in understanding. Elder Weng said, “Wei Hongru and Wei Hongwen have already shown their loyalty to Your Majesty and the Empress. Wei Hongwen has even begun to work for Your Majesty and the Empress. It’s important to consider carefully.”
General Dai spoke frankly. “There’s no difficulty in this. With the abilities of Wei Hongru and Wei Hongwen, they can earn a noble title for themselves. Without the annoyance of the Marquis of Hengyuan’s estate, the burden on the two brothers will be lifted and they can advance more easily. Otherwise, even if Wei Hongru, as the legitimate eldest son, inherits the title, with his other siblings, it would be quite taxing for him. Wei Chunlin is incompetent at raising children. At this juncture, seizing his title would also serve as a warning to other influential families, preventing them from losing sight of their status as subjects.”
Elder Weng agreed, “General Dai’s words are indeed wise. Without those brothers dragging them down, Wei Hongru and Wei Hongwen might achieve even greater heights. Your Majesty’s actions have effectively cleared obstacles for their advancement.”
Emperor Yongming nodded, “Yes, General Dai’s words are correct. The Empress highly regards Wei Hongru and Wei Hongwen. Without the Marquis of Hengyuan’s estate, I can trust them even more.”
The two elderly men responded, “Your Majesty is wise.”
It seemed like it had been a very long time since he had slept so comfortably or so peacefully. When he opened his eyes, the Empress was unsure if he was still in a dream or if he had returned to reality.
The Empress turned his head in the direction of the voice, only to see Emperor Yongming with an excited expression leaning over him. He opened his mouth, wanting to call out “Your Majesty,” but his voice wouldn’t come out.
“Zhuo Jin, pour some water!”
Zhuo Jin entered from outside. Seeing that the Emperor had awakened, he first felt joy, then immediately prepared a cup of honey pomelo tea. Emperor Yongming helped the weakened Empress to sit up, while Zhuo Jin carefully assisted in offering the water.
The Empress was thirsty so he drank the pomelo tea in a few sips. Feeling a bit drowsy and disoriented, he said, “I still want more.”
Edited by: Jaisland