After Sun Li left, Luo Wei had Wei Lan enter the room and collect the ten banknotes. He himself sat behind the study desk. Beginning from when he read Sima Qingsha’s letter, his mind was filled with only the three words “Black Frost City.”
Black Frost City was a road one must pass through to go south from Northern Yan to Greater Zhou. One hundred years ago, it was a strategic defensive position on the frontier of Greater Zhou. After the battle between Yan and Zhou that occurred a century ago, Black Frost City became Northern Yan’s primary southern stronghold. In the intervening years, in order to retake Black Frost City, how many Greater Zhou generals and soldiers had their corpses lost beneath the yellow sands of that city? In the previous life, that place was where Yun Guan’s cavalry was annihilated, and where big brother Luo Qi perished. After Long Xuan ascended to the throne, even with Ning Fei as commander in chief and paying the price of tens of thousands of human bones buried within Black Frost City, that city only returned for just one month. Afterwards, because the Zhou army did not have the power to defend, that city was seized again by the Black Frost Cavalry.
Luo Wei once did not understand why, in these one hundred years, generation after generation of Greater Zhou monarchs and ministers all wanted to wrest control of Black Frost City. In this life, he had seen the map of Black Frost City on the imperial writing desk of Emperor Xing Wu. Only then did he discover that with only a city wall as barricade, the interior of the city was a tree-lined, vast fertile land. Outside the city lay boundless yellow sand.
“It’s this river.” Emperor Xing Wu pointed to the long Tian Shui river and told Luo Wei, “This river is blocked by Black Frost City and there’s no way to come south. It’s such that the fruitful area we had created in that desolate environment a hundred years ago has become the uninhabited desert of today.”
As long as Greater Zhou recaptured Black Frost City and destroyed the long embankment built by Northern Yan, changing the course of the Tian Shui River, the Zhou people’s paradise of a hundred years ago could return. Luo Wei’s mood would not calm, and he spread out a map on the study desk. If Black Frost City returned, Greater Zhou’s army could move as it liked over the Black Mountain. At that time, Greater Zhou could trade with nations to the north and beyond of the Black Mountain without paying Northern Yan any tax. Caravans would no longer have to pass through uninhabited vast deserts, and the ancient road through the Black Mountain that had been buried in yellow sand could again become a thoroughfare.
Wasn’t this bout of civil unrest in Northern Yan an opportunity for Greater Zhou to retake Black Frost City? Luo Wei looked at the symbol on the map representing Black Frost City. The seemingly small marking on the map marked the resting place for the white bones of successive generations of Greater Zhou soldiers. Perhaps soon, when Black Frost City returned, the souls of the departed could also return to their homeland.
Luo Wei folded the map neatly and stood up.
Wei Lan placed the banknotes elsewhere and then entered the room. Seeing Luo Wei adjusting his clothes at that moment, he asked, “Young master wants to go out again?”
“I want to enter the palace to seek an audience with the emperor,” Luo Wei replied. “Lan, have Qi Zi tell the steward to prepare a carriage for me.”
“Okay,” Wei Lan affirmed and then left.
Fu Hua and Fu Jing Zong walked to the outside of Luo Wei’s study at this time. Seeing Wei Lan exit, Fu Hua inquired, “Lan, is your young master inside?”
Wei Lan hurriedly pushed open the study door for Fu Hua and Provincial Governor Fu, and reported to Luo Wei inside the study, “Young master, the madam and eldest uncle have arrived.”
Luo Wei rose in greeting, impatient at heart. However, a smile still hung from his lips as he gave Fu Hua and Fu Jing Zong the proper salutations.
After Fu Hua sat, she asked Luo Wei, “You left your sixth cousin at Zi Zhou’s?”
Luo Wei confirmed, “Yes, sixth cousin and Lady Wang get along well.”
The eldest uncle of the Fu family said, “Wei Er, even if my family’s Wei Er cannot go to the lady’s selection of the palace, you don’t need to drag her and that little deputy general together right?“
“Big brother!” Fu Hua yelled at the Eldest Uncle Fu. After making her older brother shut up, she continued to speak to Luo Wei: “Wei Er, your eldest uncle just talks like this. He doesn’t mean to blame you.”
“Ning Fei’s background is too poor!” Fu Jing Zong said. “Wei Er is my first wife’s daughter, what kind of family background does this Ning Fei have?”
Fu Hua spoke up for Ning Fei: “Zi Zhou is a good kid. Take a closer look and don’t rush to say no.”
“This matter is impossible,” Fu Jing Zong rebuffed. “It’s fine that he’s a little bastard son, but if I recognize such a son-in-law, won’t I be mocked to death?!”
This one phrase, “bastard son,” poked at Luo Wei’s sore spot. “Ning Fei is not a person without talent.” He turned to Fu Jing Zong and said, “He’s also a person our Luo family wants to rope in. Eldest uncle says he’s a bastard son? Today even the emperor values him, does uncle think that a person the emperor acknowledges is also no good?”
“I-” Now that their talk involved the emperor, Fu Jing Zong didn’t dare to speak. He was a vulgar man, true, but he knew Luo Wei was someone who could enter the palace at any time and accompany the monarch. If he made one mistake in his speech before this person, it was hard to say whether there would be a disaster.
“It’s not as if there aren’t beautiful girls in my Luo clan.” Luo Wei was still smiling. “I only saw that sixth cousin and Zi Zhou got along, and thought that a gentleman is always ready to help others attain their aims. If eldest uncle holds such prejudice for family status, then I won’t force it and Zi Zhou even more so won’t bring humiliation to himself. How can a real man suffer from lack of a wife? He will win success and recognition, it’s fine as long as eldest uncle doesn’t regret it.”
Fu Jing Zong was rendered speechless by Luo Wei. How could this person be his nephew? He was more like a scolding ancestor.
Luo Wei looked towards Fu Hua and said, “Mother, your son has something to do at the palace. I won’t accompany you further.”
“Your father was also rushed to the palace,” said Fu Hua. “It’s nothing to do with our family, right? Is your second brother’s matter about to be decided?”
“Mother doesn’t need to worry.” Luo Wei stood up. “It has nothing to do with our family.”
“Did you drink your medicine?” Fu Hua also stood up.
“I can drink it on my way there,” Luo Wei assured her as he began to walk out. He thought a bit and then stopped to say to Fu Jing Zong, “Eldest uncle, I respect Zi Zhou like an older brother. I will pretend that I did not hear you insult him behind his back this time. There cannot be a next time.”
“What does he mean?!” Luo Wei had left the courtyard, and Fu Jing Zong only then came back to his senses and shouted at Fu Hua, “Does he treat me as an uncle? You still say that this kid became sensible, but why is he just like he used to be, not charming!”
“Big brother.” Fu Hua’s headache was ceaseless. Now Luo Wei couldn’t be spoken to, so she could only reason with this big brother who had become used to being the king of the jungle. “Zi Zhou is someone who the prime minister and those two older brothers see as pretty good. Isn’t there a saying, that heroes have sources for their opinions? Would Wei Er harm sixth daughter? Anyway, nothing has happened yet, why are you worried?”
“Would I not understand my own kid? She even learned how to cook rice, if she hasn’t been bewitched by that Ning Zi Zhou then what else is it? Okay!” Fu Jing Zong indignantly continued, “I sent my daughter here to enjoy riches and honor, now she’s sent cheap to some guy who doesn’t even have a dad, how can I not worry?”
“You–what can I say to you? What’s so great about the palace?” Fu Hua asked.
“What’s wrong with the palace?”
“I won’t speak with you anymore,” Fu Hua said. “Are you thinking that our entire family wants to harm you? Don’t disregard Wei Er’s words. He’s now a member of the emperor’s inner ministerial circle. Hundreds of notebooks of yours aren’t as effective as one phrase from him. The prime minister now listens to him most of the time, and the two older ones as well. Wei Er was insensitive as a child, but now he takes responsibility for his family. However, his insensitive nature is the same and has never changed. If big brother thinks he can compete with him, then go ahead.”
Having been told off by Fu Hua, Fu Jing Zong didn’t keep talking. It seemed that Fu Hua implied that if he offended Ning Fei he’d offend Luo Wei, and if he offended Luo Wei he’d offend the entire Luo family. In the end he might even suffer reprisal from Emperor Xing Wu. Apparently he couldn’t afford to provoke this Ning Fei?
Rina, thank you for the Ko-Fi and kind words :*