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Between Wanyan Xu and Su Yi, all misunderstandings had been eliminated, and all their former enmity and grievances and been buried, leaving no traces. After they had shared life and death on the battlefield, and endured its trials and tribulations in solidarity, their feelings for each other grew deeper and deeper by the day. They were unwilling to part with each other for even a moment, as inseparable as honey in oil. Even when Wanyan Xu held court to attend to politics, he would insist on having Su Yi seated by his side, in that way his mind could be free from worry. At first, the a.s.sorted ministers of the court were put out by this although they veiled their criticism, but they soon discovered that Su Yi merely listened to the proceedings, and rarely interfered in the affairs of government. On the rare occasions that he did choose to interpose, his opinions were invariably incisive, insightful and well-reasoned, and his audience could not help but to be convinced.
Consequently, the objections gradually died down, and as time went on, it even happened that whenever a courtier felt that the Emperor had made an unfair decision, he might openly request for Su Yi to give his comments. Su Yi's status as the Empress was increasingly winning over the hearts of the ministers, as well as those of the concubines in the harem. At the same time, his imperial dignity was also growing with each pa.s.sing day, to the point where it could actually come to stand shoulder to shoulder with Wanyan Xu's.
But it was just that this situation caused displeasure in two people. Who do you think they were? They were none other than the pair of father and son that was the most important in the land.
Grievances grew in Wanyan Shuo's heart because his Empress Mother was being monopolized by his Imperial Father, who even demanded that he remain by his side during morning court. As for Wanyan Xu, having his lover's time monopolized by courtiers who requested that he answer their questions, listen to their complaints and right their wrongs, caused him to be in a sour mood.
In his heart, Wanyan Shuo thought: Imperial Father is really too much, even if Mother Empress is his Empress, is there really a need for them to be affixed to each other all day long. He should still leave some time for me, no matter what he is my Mother Empress after all. Now, he has not even left Mother Empress enough time with me for him to test me on my lessons. Humph, he is even worse than the big bad wolf.
Wanyan Xu also felt terribly aggrieved: with the heavens as my witness, ever since the ministers have recognized Su Yi's true character, they have started buzzing around him all day, just like flies, they can't be shooed away even if one tries.Because of that, there was less and less time to spend with Su Yi, so how could he endure having to vie with his own son? Most importantly, he would fail to best his son every single time. Both the father and the son felt that each of them did not have enough time with Su Yi, and hence, their tug-of-war contest went from hidden to obvious and from sedate to fierce.
Although Wanyan Xu had a high status, he could not control his son, and moreover, his own Mother Empress would always provide back-up for her grandson. On one side, there were the courtiers who refused to observe the wishes of their exalted Emperor and blindly requested to see the Empress for various reasons and they always spoke with him for a long time. Although Wanyan Xu sorely wished to have the whole lot of them sentenced to do penal service or executed, but because his beloved was too fair and reasonable, he did not dare to act blindly without thinking.
Moreover, letting Su Yi attend the morning court was actually his idea, so now he could not even use the excuse of avoiding gossip to forbid the courtiers from meeting with the Empress. Every time he thought of this matter, Wanyan Xu would feel vexed. He had never expected that as one of the most brilliant men of his age, he would actually commit the folly of dropping a rock on his own foot.
Unable to resolve either the internal trouble or the outside aggression, even worse, they showed signs of become ever more critical, Wanyan Xu was left to ponder about the bitter experiences piling up. Finally, he made up his mind and resolved to bring Su Yi away from this environment filled with wolves, worms, tigers and panthers. After that, he would accompany only Wanyan Xu and they would wander around the mountains and forests together, laughing and carefree. And there was only one way to realise this dream, it was: to give way.
And so, on this day, he very amiably put on the countenance of a kindly father. Instructing the Imperial Kitchen to prepare a large pile of snacks that Wanyan Shuo most enjoyed, he requested the company of Su Yi and Wanyan Xia and prepared himself to earnestly instruct and reason with them, so that he could successfully fight for his son to take over his throne.
Su Yi was sitting to the side, still unaware of his beloved's intentions, but he could see that from time to time, a strange smile would tug at the corners of Wanyan Xu's mouth. He couldn't help but be very alarmed and he said: “Wanyan, what is it you are intending to do? I have to remind you, Shuo Er is your son, your very own flesh and blood. If you dare to harm him using me as a reason, I will not let you off.”
Wanyan Xu took Su Yi into his arms and said smilingly: “What are you afraid of? I  also know that he is my own flesh and blood. You need not worry, the reason I have sent for him, is because I want him to take up my throne. After that, you and I can travel lightly, wander and live with nature, and tour around all the lands of Jin Liao.” At that, he bent his head down and gave Su Yi's earlobe a kiss, and asked softly: “Su Su, you don’t like it? During our time in the mortal realm, don’t you wish to play in it with me?”
Su Yi looked at him, and could not help smiling. Holding his hand, Su Yi said: “Oh you! I already know that you have made up your mind.” So saying, he looked out the window before turning his head back to look at Wanyan Xu intently. He gave a sigh laden with emotion and said: “Why do you need to ask me? Don’t tell me that you don’t already know that I have been longing for this day for a long time? It's just that I was worried that you were still busy with government affairs, it has been a long and difficult road but the people have finally ushered in peace and prosperity...”
Before he could finish, Wanyan Xu covered his mouth and said smilingly: “I am alright. Shuo Er is already so big, and he has devilishly quick wits, he ought to be able to shoulder the responsibility of governing all under Heaven. You better not mention your people so much, I know that in your heart, I am no match for them, so I simply refuse to hear about them.”
Su Yi also smiled, and said: “I've never seen a monarch like you, who would even get jealous of his own people. Isn’t it also for you that I care so much about the lands of the country and the state.” Just as his words faded, Su Yi saw that Wanyan Xu broke out into a big smile and say with a blissful expression: “These words are very pleasing to my ears, hehe, that it is all for my sake.”
When he finished speaking, he leaned close and planted a kiss by the side of Su Yi’s ear. He whispered: “Su Su, I like to hear you say this line, that it is all for me. Hehe, this feeling is so good. You can take it that I'm being selfish, but in future, can you say it a few more times for me to hear?”
Not waiting for Su Yi to reply, he hugged his beloved and kissed his petal-like lips, unable to restrain his emotions any longer. In the middle of being lost in their emotions, they suddenly heard the sound of a cough coming from beyond the door and an annoyed voice said: “Didn’t you say that you were inviting me over to have some food? How come you have started eating already?” Following the sound of that voice, Wanyan Shuo walked in the door with jealousy written all over his face, along with Wanyan Xia, who wore a faint smile on his face.
With regards to this type of behaviour --- sneaking mouthfuls of tofu  whenever he could --- from Wanyan Xu, Su Yi had to admit that in all honesty, it made him feel very happy and blessed. But the hateful thing was that this lover always tried to steal a bite with no regard to the situation or the setting. Also, whenever he got hot-headed in public and carried out his plan to sneak a bite, they would always be discovered, if he tried ten times, they would be caught in the act ten times. Just the previous time, it had actually been the Empress Dowager who had caught him red-handed. Oh, at that moment, even Su Yi, the innocent party, had been so ashamed that he could not show his face!
Unfortunately, this arrogant and conceited lover had still not learnt his lesson, and in the end, today he was again caught red-handed, this time by Wanyan Shuo. Fiercely, he smacked away Wanyan Xu's hands, which were still holding onto him. He no longer had the face to sit upright and still, and could not project the image that was befitting a Mother Empress. He had better not blame Su Yi if he didn't help him push his arguments later.
However, Wanyan Xu's ability to remain poised was not as lacking as Su Yi's, to put it more unkindly, his skin was a lot thicker. Even when faced with his son's sarcasm, he could still maintain an unchanged expression and was even able to immediately display the panache of an Emperor. After seating himself, he pointed to the seats opposite him and said to his son and younger brother: “Ah, you can sit over there, I have something to discuss with the two of you.”
Once he heard these words, Wanyan Shuo immediately cried out: “Second uncle, how about this? I already said that this is feast is going to be an imaginary one. But you still insisted that I come.”
Wanyan Xu couldn't keep his mouth from twitching, in his son's heart, had his image decayed to this extent? He gave a couple of coughs and worked hard at projecting a father's authority. He slapped the table and said: “You degenerate thing, how could you speak like that. What do you mean the feast is imaginary, I'm your Imperial Father, you know?”
Wanyan Shuo gave a “humph” and said: “That’s right, you are my Imperial Father, my Imperial Father who only knows how to rob me of Mother Empress.” Just as he finished speaking, Su Yi was already hastening to try and salvage his beloved's standing as a father which was in imminent danger. To that end, he said, he tried to put in a good word for him: “Shuo Er, don’t speak about your Imperial Father like that, he actually loves you very much. You…”
Before he could finish speaking, Wanyan Shuo had already used his sleeve to cover his face and cried out loudly: “Wu... wa wa... Second Uncle, like I said, Mother Empress is also on Imperial Father's side. Oh, I have a grievance but I have no avenue to appeal for justice, wu wa wa...”
Wanyan Xu and Su Yi exchanged a glance and they both took a sharp gasp of air at the same time. In their hearts both of them were thinking that his strategy of increasing one's vice by ten feet when one was met with a foot of virtue was really pretty good. It would seem that the devilry of this little thing was getting more and more formidable, and now, even Su Yi could no longer rein him in.
Slapping the table again heavily, Wanyan Xu was at a bit of a loss, not know how to curb Wanyan Shuo's shameless behaviour. “That… I demand that you sit down and behave properly, I have something to say to you.” Seeing that Wanyan Shuo was totally not allowing himself to be cowed at all, a thread of anger gradually began to coalesce in his eyes.
“I will say it one last time, sit still.” Holding onto the heavily imposing manner of the True Dragon and Son of Heaven, Wanyan Xu successfully made Wanyan Shuo stop his cries. At the side, Su Yi immediately played the role of the villain . Taking out a handkerchief, he helped the little devil to wipe away the tears whose supply seemed to be inexhaustible no matter how much he used them. At the same time, he quietly coaxed him: “Alright, alright, your Imperial Father is really angry now. Don’t cry anymore, and listen carefully to him. I guarantee you that this time, it is something good.”
“You can tell me.” Wanyan Shuo admitted defeat grudgingly, but he very quickly added a few more lines: “But I have to tell you, because of Mother Empress's words, a little bit of hope has already risen in my heart. You should not let my hopes be dashed, if you still admit to being my Imperial Father.”
What kind of speech was that. Wanyan Xu was almost about to roar in rage, who was it who had spoiled his son so much that he was behaving in such a way, without any respect for laws nor Heaven. He darted a suspicious look at the lover by his side. Immediately, Su Yi glared back at him fiercely with half-narrowed eyes; he had immediately known what Wanyan Xu was thinking. All at once, the Emperor of Jin Liao's surging belligerence lay down its flag and stilled its drums. He could only turn his august gaze back onto his son and he said: “Actually the reason I have sent for you, is to tell you something that is as fortunate as a Heaven-sent blessing.”
“Second Uncle, do you believe it?” Wanyan Shuo did not give his old dad a chance to speak further before he opened his mouth to ask his uncle this question in a cold voice.
“How could you say that? Naturally I believe him, you should believe him also, he is your Imperial Father after all.” Wanyan Xia smiled placidly, trying with difficulty to diffuse the tensions between this pair of father and son, who were facing off with their metaphorical swords drawn and bows bent.
“Is that so? I still can’t really believe it.” Wanyan Shuo folder his arms across his chest, and gave full expression to his venomous tongue. When he saw the expression on his father's face become as black as the bottom of a pot because of his anger, ah, he felt so pleased with himself in his heart. Ha ha ha, it felt so good to win a round after conceding the previous one.
Wanyan Xu and Su Yi exchanged a glance, and both of them could recognize the helpless frustration in each other's eyes. They couldn't allow this child to continue acting so wilfully and audaciously any longer, he should be quickly placed on the throne to experience its rigors, so that he will know how difficult it was to be an emperor. He was very satisfied that he had finally found a selfless excuse for his plans.
“I want to pa.s.s the throne to you.” He said this in a calm and collected way, but he saw that Wanyan Shuo's mouth had slanted in a nonchalant manner.
Wanyan Shuo said: “I know, I am the only son you have, who else could you pa.s.s the throne to when you are old? It can't be that your faculties are failing even before you have gotten old.” The sound of his voice had barely faded before Su Yi's reproaching voice drifted over, saying: “Shuo Er, you are not to speak of your Imperial Father like that.” Very reluctantly, he pursed up his mouth, but he finally stopped speaking rudely.
“No, I mean to immediately pa.s.s the throne to you, do you understand my meaning now? Hump Humph, you are not that young anymore, but you only care about playing your naughty pranks all day long, it is time for you to hone your mettle.” Without any sense of shame, Wanyan Xu gave his high-sounding excuses, deliberately ignoring his son's wide, round eyes and mouth that was hanging open.
“Second… Second Uncle… you… did you hear what he said? You… did you hear it too, what that person sitting opposite, he who I call Imperial Father, what he said?” With great difficulty, Wanyan Shuo managed to hiss out his words between the gaps of his teeth, and glared at Wanyan Xu with a flinty look in his eyes. The meaning behind that look was clear: you want to abandon me and go off into the sunset with Mother Empress, no way! At the same time, he had already thought of a way to deal with his Imperial Father's fustian excuses for pa.s.sing the throne to him.
“Oh, I heard it, it is indeed a very good thing. Shuo Er is probably too pleasantly surprised, and thus, is still a bit disbelieving.” He deliberately misconstrued the meaning behind his nephew's question, in his heart he gave a helpless sigh and he thought: ah Imperial Elder Brother, this is the only thing I can do to help you, although it may not be of much use.
“Pleasantly surprised? Second Uncle, do you really think so? Or is it that you cannot differentiate between the two distinctly different expressions of someone being pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly shocked?” Wanyan Shuo a.s.sumed the demeanour of a troublemaker and gave a couple of sneers before saying: “Since the conversation has taken such a turn, and Imperial Father has even finagled such just and honourable excuses to justify your plans, I think that in all likelihood, I will not be allowed to refuse, am I right? Alright then, I will make an effort to accept a difficult situation and agree. See, I, you son, am so fair and reasonable, you must be thank me well!”
Not caring to fuss over whether their son was being disrespectful in his speech, when Wanyan Xu and Su Yi heard him say “alright then, I will make an effort to accept a difficult situation and agree”, they were so delirious with joy that they couldn’t even remember where the direction of north was.
They exchanged a glance, and Su Yi said quietly: “Who was it who was saying that Shuo Er is annoying, isn't this child very good? Look, he didn't even make things difficult for you before he agreed.”
Wanyan Xu also nodded repeatedly as he said: “That’s right, that’s right, I have mistakenly blamed him in the past, but I will be sure to dote on him well in the future.”
“Ah, Shuo Er, Imperial Father cannot thank you enough, alright? Hehe, you are my good son indeed, you are truly worthy of me pa.s.sing the throne to you so early.” Once he heard his son's words and realised that his dreams of travelling around the lands with Su Yi would be so easily realised, he beamed with happiness and his unruly son immediately became a benevolent child in his eyes.
It was a pity, but Wanyan Shuo did not appear to be the slightest bit moved by his profession of grat.i.tude. Instead, Wanyan Xu saw the little devil remain unruffled at such an important time, picking up a piece of food, he waved his hand to indicate that Wanyan Xu should stop praising him. He said: “Don't be so happy yet, there is a condition I must mention, I will only take the throne if you can meet it.”
“Go ahead and tell me, as long as you agree, I will accept even a hundred conditions, not just one.” In a generous mood, Wanyan Xu waved his hand expansively. In his heart he was thinking that he since he was pressing his son onto the throne at such a young age for his own selfish reasons, he should also compensate him well. Unfortunately, his moment of conscience was not to last for long.
He watched as Wanyan Shuo finished his snack, and after brushing the crumbs off his hands, he sidled up to Su Yi's side with a beaming smile. Pulling at Su Yi's sleeve, he said to Wanyan Xu: “As you know, my homework has always been supervised and graded by Mother Empress. If you are in such a hurry to make way for me on the throne, I will very generously overlook your selfishness but Mother Empress must stay by my side to advise me on statecraft. This request isn't unwarranted, is it? As long as Mother Empress remains by my side, you can go where you please, I'll even be happy that there is no one here that I have to vie with. Imperial Father, you need not worry, I will surely govern the lands under Heaven well, I won't let you down.”
It was fortunate that Wanyan Xu had been the Emperor for so many years, and had inevitably learned to maintain a certain measure of composure under pressing circ.u.mstances. But even so, he still nearly picked his son up by the scruff of his collar. “Have you thought of who your Mother Empress is? He is my Empress, the EMPRESS. After I leave the throne to you and go travelling around the world, he would accompany me as a matter of course. You want Su Su to stay here, you do not have a single door that would open to success!”
“Humph humph, you have finally said it yourself. Actually, your motive is to go on a scenic tour with Mother Empress, and to push the heavy burden over to your son's soft and immature shoulders. Imperial Father, I will tell you, you do not even have a single window that would open to success.” Wanyan Shuo also stood up, and fearlessly faced off with his father, the same way that a dead pig does not fear boiling water.
“Aiya, sit down, the two of you. Whatever next!” He would never expect to find himself to be such a popular personage in ten-thousand years, and Su Yi hurriedly tried to mediate in their quarrel: “Wanyan, if Shuo Er doesn't wish to ascend the throne so early, then you should just let him be.” He saw his beloved fixed him with a piercing stare as he said: “Su Su, don’t tell me that you don’t wish to travel around the world with me anymore?”
“I do wish to, but won’t this…” Su Yi heaved a sigh and turned to Wanyan Shuo again to say: “Shuo Er be good, let your Imperial Father have his way once, he…” Before he could finish his speech, he saw that the little devil had tears streaming down his face again and he said in an ill-treated manner: “Mother Empress, does that mean that you don’t want me anymore? Wu wu wu, Shuo Er has been without a mother from an early age, I waited so long for someone like you to come, don't tell me that you want to abandon Shuo Er so quickly? Wu Wu wu…”
“Of course not, of course not…” Su Yi hurriedly took Wanyan Shuo into his arms and gently patted him as he cajoled the child. When he looked up, he was met with the sight of Wanyan Xia's helpless expression as he said: “I think the two of you had better just forget it, if you want to fight against this little thing, hehe... go back and wrack your brains for a foolproof plan first.”
“Not taking over, not taking over, wu wu wu, bad Imperial Father is trying to force me, I'm going to find Imperial Grandma, I want Imperial Grandma to judge the right of this matter.” Knavishly, Wanyan Shuo brought out his greatest supporter, causing Su Yi's expression to change in a split second. Heavens, If the Empress Dowager were to know that the father and son had had a falling out over himself, that would be awful. No, no, a person must not sink to such a shameful level.
Su Yi suddenly stood up, and using an insufferably arrogant tone of voice he issued his command: “Wanyan, you need not think about it anymore. Shuo Er Is still little, and you are still young. How could you do something as preposterous as abdicating? It will become the b.u.t.t of everybody's jokes under Heaven. About the matter of travelling around the world, we can discuss it again after you have turned sixty.”
“That… that can’t be right? When I’m sixty? The two of us will be old and grey by then.” Wanyan Xu stared at his beloved in a daze, not daring to believe that the plan he had spent so long strategizing for had died in its infancy just like that. But if even Su Yi did not support his scheme, there was definitely no way for him to successfully carry it out by himself.
Infuriated he looked in the direction of his son, who was already munching on the snacks happily. Humph humph, just you wait, how could such an illogical thing happen, that a father should experience defeat at the hands of his son. Although I have failed to give way today, but the day will come that I will give way to you and travel around the world with Su Su. Wanyan Xu secretly vowed to himself that he would never let such a beautiful aspiration be realised only when he had already become some decrepit monster with chicken skin and crane hair.