What do I think of him? Long Xuan felt that his little brother had asked him a very good question. He didn’t speak to Long Xiang again as they walked. Long Xuan slowly moved forward in the snow. Of course he hated that Luo Wei was his enemy, forcing him to the state he was in today where he had to rethink all his plans. But Long Xuan admitted that he was like most people in that he liked all pretty people or things. What’s more, Luo Wei was a person who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him. When his uncle Liu Shuang Shi was still alive, he had said that Long Xuan was cold and indifferent by nature. Long Xuan thought that maybe he really was a cold and indifferent person. The Liu Clan had all perished, and it was difficult for him, but from beginning to end his fondness for Luo Wei outmatched his resentment towards him. He also didn’t speak of revenge like Long Xiang. Long Xuan had never thought about taking revenge; liaising with the enemy and selling out one’s country was originally a life-or-death maneuver. If you bet and lost, you paid. Paying with life was not a reason for revenge.
“Big brother,” Long Xiang rushed to catch up with Long Xuan, calling him.
“Let’s go.” Long Xuan waved at Long Xiang. Maybe he was still thinking of Luo Wei; the smile he revealed to Long Xiang was exceptionally gentle.
After Luo Wei returned to his carriage, he pillowed himself on Wei Lan’s legs and slept. When they arrived at the official’s residence, Wei Lan carried him into his room.
Imperial Physician Wei’s face was bitter as he brought over Luo Wei’s snow mountain ginseng soup. He had already received Emperor Xing Wu’s imperial edict ordering him to go with Luo Wei to Northern Yan. Once Luo Wei drank the soup in a few gulps, Imperial Physician Wei requested a leave of absence from Luo Wei. He wanted to return home to prepare his luggage and say good-bye to his family.
“Tomorrow at 5 to 7 a.m. we’ll leave the capital,” Luo Wei said with some apologeticness.
Imperial Physician Wei only smiled bitterly. Would he dare to be late for these kinds of events? After taking over this Third Young Master Luo’s case, he only encountered situations that could end with his head rolling if he wasn’t careful. Imperial Physician Wei was filled with bitter complaints as he brought his little apprentice back home. He simultaneously regretted his mistakes and resigned himself to his bad luck.
Upon downing the bowl of snow ginseng soup, Luo Wei felt some strength returning and he said to Wei Lan, “I want to take a bath.”
Wei Lan accompanied Luo Wei to take a bath again. This time Wei Lan didn’t dare to touch him. Once Luo Wei soaked in the hot water, he fell asleep again. Wei Lan cleaned Luo Wei from top to bottom, and then carefully examined his lower body. That place was still red and swollen, but it wasn’t as frightening as it was in the early morning.
Xiao Xiao stood guard at the entrance to the bathing pool. When he saw Wei Lan carrying Luo Wei out, he asked with some disbelief, “The young master can sleep taking a bath?”
Wei Lan whispered, “He’s tired.”
In Luo Wei’s room, Qi Zi had already prepared all the clothes Luo Wei would bring on his journey. After he helped Wei Lan place Luo Wei in the bed, he said, “Big brother Wei, you have to leave early tomorrow. You should also pack. I’ll watch over the young master here.”
Wei Lan returned to his own room. He wouldn’t bring many clothes, and quickly finished packing a bundle wrapped in cloth. Wei Lan lifted his pillow. Beneath it lay the wooden box he had hurriedly placed yesterday, just as he’d left it. Wei Lan took that small wooden box and threw it in his bundle. He didn’t want to glance even one more time at this thing–out of sight out of mind. He would not be unable to bear this thing’s enticement. Wei Lan still dreamt of his and Luo Wei’s future. If he could, he’d go to Xuan Zhou, or anywhere else in this world, with just the two of them living their lives out behind closed doors.
Luo Wei slept soundly that night, When morning came, Wei Lan woke him. It was time for them to leave.
The five Dragon’s Secret Guards including Ten accepted Emperor Xing Wu’s orders and arrived at the official’s residence. This time again they would follow Luo Wei to a dangerous place. Compared to the Yu Zhou trip, this Northern Yan journey was several times more treacherous. Therefore, before leaving, Emperor Xing Wu instructed the five guards for quite a while for fear that they would not take this task to heart.
(T/N: Keeping acid’s translations for the guards who went to Yu Zhou. The Chinese is unclear, but I interpreted it as the five people who accompanied Luo Wei last time including Ten. Otherwise, it would be fifteen guards, which makes less sense.)
Compared to Emperor Xing Wu, Luo Zhi Qiu seemed much more at ease. Because Luo Ze was still nursing injuries and the imperial household ordered troops to Northern Yan, the Luo family kept the matter of Luo Wei going to Northern Yan a secret. Even half a related sentence was forbidden. Luo Zhi Qiu and Fu Hua sent Luo Wei’s party out of the official’s residence. Prime Minister Luo looked at Luo Wei, whose entire body was ensconced in warm layers, and only patted him on the shoulders and spoke simply, “Your father and mother await your triumphant return in the capital. On the battlefield, swords and spears have no eyes. You must be careful.”
After Luo Wei kowtowed before Luo Zhi Qiu and Fu Hua, he stood and entered a horse-drawn carriage. He said to the imperial bodyguard of the official’s residence leading the way, “Let’s go.”
Seeing Luo Wei’s party travelling further and further away, Fu Hua asked Luo Zhi Qiu, “Wei Er will return safely right? He’s still sick.”
“It’s fine,” Luo Zhi Qiu replied. “Grandmaster Fu Yi foretold that this child will not be short-lived.”
Fu Hua believed in Buddhism. Hearing Luo Zhi Qiu say so, her worries eased a bit. Luo Zhi Qiu, who had spoken coaxing words, had not a bit of certainty. The day before, Xie Yu had left for Eastern Shang with the envoy. Convincing Eastern Shang to deploy soldiers was no easy task, not to mention that Luo Wei was going to Northern Yan to serve as a voluntary hostage. Luo Zhi Qiu suddenly felt that he had become old, so these matters all fell to his son and disciple to execute. He saw them entrapped in danger zones, but he had no alternative.
“It’s okay, it’ll all be okay,” Luo Zhi Qiu mumbled to himself. He turned his head to Fu Hua. “Let’s go back. Wei Er is clever and knows propriety, he won’t mess up.”
“How is he someone who can go into battle ah,” Fu Hua spoke oft-repeated words, “isn’t a literary official like you also managing a household and governing a realm? Where did this child’s temperament come from? Or is it that this generation of our old Luo family all wants to live life serving in the army?”
“Don’t say these things,” Luo Zhi Qiu thought of the plan Luo Wei and Long Xuan discussed. He didn’t know who the main planner was among those two. This plan involved toying with Northern Yan for applause; it was too malicious. Luo Zhi Qiu would rather believe that this was Long Xuan’s idea. His Luo Wei was not this diabolical and ruthless. “You don’t understand,” he said to Fu Hua, “the battle between two countries is not only determined by the strength and bravery of their generals and troops. True talent in a commander-in-chief lies in the ability to obtain victory from a thousand miles away.”
“Does Wei Er have this ability?” Fu Hua asked.
Luo Zhi Qiu did not speak. Luo Wei had not yet studied military arts, but Long Xuan was a civil and military all-rounder. In fact, compared to the crown prince, the second prince–Luo Zhi Qiu sighed in his heart–was truly a talented commander-in-chief. He was pleased with this person, but he would never dare to reveal even a hint of that. Those who walked different paths could not make plans together. Long Xuan was not born from Luo Zhi Yi’s stomach, so they could only be enemies in this life. To say more was useless.
At the northern gate of the capital, Luo Wei stepped down from his carriage. He looked at Crown Prince Long Yu, third prince Long Xing, and even Long Xuan.
“Xiao Wei.” Long Yu took Luo Wei, who was about to pay outsized respects to him, by the arm. “No need to be too polite, I accepted Emperor Father’s orders and took second and third brother to send you off.”
“This humble servant thanks His Second Highness, and His Third Highness,” Luo Wei again thanked Long Xuan and Long Xing.
“Xiao Wei, return safely. I will come to the northern gate to pick you up then.” Long Xing looked very similar to his full brother Long Yu, but only his height was a bit shorter.
“This humble servant will remember His Highness’s words.” Luo Wei smiled.
Long Xuan did not participate in these three cousins’ chat. He walked to the end of the procession where Imperial Physician Wei stood, and said, “Has Luo Wei used up the snow mountain ginseng?”
Imperial Physician Wei hurriedly replied, “Replying to Your Highness, there’s still a bit left.”
“Take this.” Long Xuan put a cloth bundle into Imperial Physician Wei’s hands. “Though this isn’t hundred-year ginseng, it’s also snow mountain ginseng. Remember to have him eat it on the way there.”
“Yes,” Imperial Physician Wei answered.
“I know you’re also an expert in poisons,” Long Xuan patted the hand Imperial Physician Wei was using to hold the cloth bundle, “so I wouldn’t be so stupid as to put poison in here.”
At this time, Luo Wei entered his carriage. He heard Long Xuan say to him from outside the carriage window, “Luo Wei, let’s meet at Black Frost City.”
Luo Wei sat in the carriage and did not speak.