Xuan Cheng had never expected the warm and gentle Fu Jian to possess a warlike nature inside of him.
History had evaluated him as an ambitious man, like Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. Now, this evaluation seemed all too pertinent.
But why would this kind-looking, good-natured and gentle monarch indulge himself in war?
Xuan Cheng was at a loss, finally deciding that it was probably easier to stop thinking about the matter altogether. He asked, “Then when will Wang Meng return?”
“He will return to Chang’an after October.”
“Oh,” Xuan Cheng said. After a moment of silence, he continued, “How soon. Who knows how long this peace will last.”
“What did you say?”
“Nothing important,” Xuan Cheng said, shaking his head.
The two fell into another period of silence. After a long while, Fu Jian moved again. Xuan Cheng grabbed his sleeve. “Fu Jian?”
“En?” Fu Jian smiled.
Xuan Cheng said nothing.
Fu Jian continued smiling, but pushed Xuan Cheng’s hand off of his sleeve. He shook his robe. “Alright. After October you will accompany Us to greet Jinglue outside the city. You should return. If you don’t wish to go to the palace, then We will not force you.” The sound of his voice was extremely low. He added, “Remember to visit the Empress Dowager.”
All of the worries swimming in Xuan Cheng’s eyes were enough to leak out of his eye sockets.
He had already been in Former Qin for almost an entire month. Who knew how worried his parents were? Here, he was forced to confront a widow that he hardly knew, a widow who lived in the depths of the imperial palace.
Fu Jian looked at him, then turned away. After taking a few steps, he once again turned around. “Younger Brother.” Xuan Cheng immediately replied, “En.”
A gust of wind blew through the hallway. From the trees that lined the streets, a few withered leaves landed onto his hair. Fu Jian said, smiling, “Remember to address him as Prime Minister. You can’t carelessly call Jinglue’s name.”
And then he was gone.
Xuan Cheng was left behind alone on the red brick hallway. For a very long time, he sank into deep thought.
It was true that he had never called Wang Meng by the title Prime Minister, but rather his given name. This was something extremely disrespectful in ancient times. The people around him, for example, only addressed him as Yangping Duke.
It looked like he was too impolite.
To Fu Jian, as well.
Wang Meng arrived earlier than expected. It was not yet October when the troops reached the Baqiao District of Chang’an.
Fu Jian dispatched servants to summon Xuan Cheng. This time, Xuan Cheng had no excuse to retreat. Since the Prime Minister was returning back in triumph, it was his duty as the Emperor’s younger brother to join in the reception.
The last time they had met in Luoyang, he had only seen one side of Wang Meng. He had heard much regarding Wang Meng’s exploits and deeds, yet knew little about the real person.
The wind outside howled. The cold air brought even colder granules of ice, rendering the environment hostile and unpleasant. Even so, the palace was filled with people. Most of the ministers were present. Fu Jian obviously regarded this event with the utmost importance.
It was clear that he valued Wang Meng immensely.
Crown Prince Fu Hong was among the hundreds of government officials, and stood directly behind Fu Jian. Xuan Cheng stood at Fu Jian’s side.
Xuan Cheng looked behind him surreptitiously, only to find Fu Hong staring at him. He faked a polite smile. “Crown Prince.”
Fu Hong raised his chin, but didn’t reply. Xuan Cheng felt an uncomfortable feeling rise in his heart. He and the crown prince shared no amicable relationship.
Perhaps, Fu Hong and this Imperial Uncle had not had a good relationship to start with.
Forget it. It had nothing to do with the current him. He decided to let the matter go. After all, he was not familiar with this environment.
However, before he could turn his head back, Fu Jian said lowly, as if not to alert Fu Jian’s attention, “Imperial Uncle, do you really not understand or are you faking ignorance? To be an official, one must enter the palace every day to discuss matters. One must pay respects to Father Emperor and the Empress Dowager. Do these matters even need to be reminded to you?”
Before Xuan Cheng could reply, someone called out, “Hong-er.” Fu Jian immediately scolded, “What are you saying? Is this how you ought to speak to your Imperial Uncle?”
“Father Emperor, you’ve said before that we must be like the Han. We must be cultured, must follow etiquette, and must be scholarly. And yet Imperial Uncle, a prince of this kingdom, brazenly disregards these rules. He disregards etiquette.”
“Shut up.” This was the first time Xuan Cheng saw Fu Jian’s fury. His expression had blackened into something vaguely terrifying. The sound of his voice raised and became forceful. “Even if it so, you are of a later generation. Saying such words is disrespectful in itself.”
“No need to speak of it.”
“But Father Emperor, Imperial Uncle’s actions are unfilial and disrespectful.
Xuan Cheng stayed silent. Instead, he glanced coldly at this father and son duo. One was unyielding, while the other continued to persevere.
Fu Hong had not made a mistake.
What he said was true.
Since his arrival in Former Qin, he should have been more concerned with etiquette and culture.