When the Little Emperor got married, the palace was decorated with lights and festoons, and there was an endless stream of people entering and leaving the Eastern Palace. Xiao Wangye also rushed to send gifts before dark.
When he came out, he saw Yan-daren. Yan-daren didn’t accompany the Little Emperor inside. Instead, he was hiding alone in the courtyard, his figure stiff as he was leaning against the tree and staring blankly.
Xiao Wangye was wearing a red jacket, so when he ran over, he looked like a little lantern. “Yan-gege, are you unhappy?”
Yan-daren looked up and touched Xiao Wangye’s head gently. “I’m happy.”
Xiao Wangye didn’t believe it. Yan-daren’s expression obviously looked lonely. Xiao Wangye made a guess: “Does Yan-gege think you’re not young anymore and you’re worried about having not taken a wife yet?”
Yan-daren gave a bitter smile and didn’t answer.
Xiao Wangye went on to say: “Yan-gege, don’t be afraid. In fact, someone likes you very much, but he is still young and needs you to wait a little longer.”
After Xiao Wangye finished speaking, he was so embarrassed. Fortunately, it was already late and nobody would see how red his face was.
Just after the wedding of the Little Emperor, riots broke out on the southern border. The Old Emperor dispatched troops to reinforce it. Yan-daren volunteered to follow the Major General of Defense to the borderland to settle the war.
Xiao Wangye was the last one to know, and Yan-daren was going to leave the next day.
Xiao Wangye cried all night. Before dawn the next day, he packed up a small package and sneaked out of the palace to run to the Yan Residence.
When Yan-daren opened the door, Xiao Wangye asked softly in a sob: “Yan-gege, I’ll go with you.”
“No,” Yan-daren flatly refused without even thinking about it.
Xiao Wangye said anxiously, “I have read a bit of Art of War, which can come in handy, and I will definitely not cause you any trouble.”
Xiao Wangye looked up at Yan-daren. His eyes were very red and pitiful.
Yan-daren frowned. He may be cold-hearted, but he wasn’t cold enough to drive him away.
He wiped the tears from the corners of Xiao Wangye’s eyes with his fingertips, then pulled the person to his chest. He reached out to pat his back in comfort.
“Compared with the battlefield, the capital needs the Ninth Prince more. The situation in the Central Court is different now. You should help Taizi Dianxia.”
Xiao Wangye nodded, though he didn’t really understand. He opened his mouth to say something, but in the end, he restrained himself.
He knew that this mission was arduous, and that one wouldn’t be able to return in one or two years. He may be a prince, but he didn’t know any martial arts. If he went, he would only become a burden.
Before he came, Xiao Wangye had already expected this kind of result. So he no longer pestered Yan-daren anymore, but instead put forward a very small request.
“I will write to you, and you’ll have to reply to me.”
“Okay,” said Yan-daren.
Xiao Wangye took off his small package, which was filled with his favorite things, including a kitten carved in wood and a pendant carved in jade.
“These are my lucky things, and I am giving them to Yan-gege. Yan-gege must come back safe and sound.”
Yan-daren set off with the mighty army and was gone for three years.
During this period, the Old Emperor died and the Little Emperor ascended the throne, but he still didn’t come back.
Xiao Wangye went to guard the mausoleum of the Old Emperor. At night, he lit a candle, knelt down in front of the memorial tablet, and wrote a letter to Yan-daren.
I hope this letter finds you well.
How have you been these days? As for me, I haven’t been very well because Father-Emperor died. Emperor-gege has ascended the throne, and the rest of my huangxiongs have been granted fiefs. I should’ve left as well, but Emperor-gege deemed I wasn’t yet an adult, so he let me stay in the palace.
I hope I can see Yan-gege return victorious before I leave the palace. I miss you very much.
These past years, Xiao Wangye would write letters to Yan-daren every first of the month, while Yan-daren would roughly reply to each every six months. The contents of his letters could be read in just one glance.
Xiao Wangye could understand. After all, Yan-daren was a man of few words. He couldn’t count on him to write flowery words.
Xiao Wangye carefully put away all the letters Yan-daren wrote back in reply, usually keeping them at the head of the bed. Whenever he thought of Yan-daren, he would take them out to read.
Although he hadn’t seen him for so long, his feelings of longing still continued to grow. Xiao Wangye felt that he liked Yan-daren even more than before.
Many times, Xiao Wangye wanted to confess his feelings through a letter, and yet he felt that words alone wouldn’t be able to convey his meaning from a thousand miles away. Hence, he drew a picture of two “Mandarin Ducks” playing in the water, then attached it with the letter.
This time, Yan-daren’s reply was much faster than before. Xiao Wangye’s heart was beating so violently, and he couldn’t wait to open the letter. But there was only one sentence in it:
Wangye, the character for your1 您 – Yan-daren is using the courteous “you” pronoun instead of the regular “you” (你) “duck2What Xiao Wangye wrote was two 鸳, which refers to the male Mandarin Duck. The female Mandarin Duck is written like 鸯. The male and female characters together are often used to refer to a husband and wife.” is wrong.