Wang Chong woke up to the sound of deafening cheerings.
Slowly rousing from sleep, he saw a few silhouettes before him. The deafening cheerings came from distance, beyond the faraway palace walls. The warden of the imperial prison, Zhou Xing, along with several other prison guards, stood carefully before him with clasped hands and bent backs.
One of the guards looked exceptionally worried.
With a glance, Wang Chong recognized him as the guard who knocked him out.
“Wang gongzi, pardon me for my insolence. However, His Majesty’s orders mustn’t be defied so I ask for your understanding!”
Zhou Xing’s body posture was extremely humble and his tone was exceptionally polite. Ever since that eunuch from the emperor’s palace came by, Zhou Xing realized that this young man was not an existence he could trifle with.
“Lord Zhou, you are being too polite.”
Wang Chong chuckled, choosing not to fault him over that matter.
“Right, can I leave now?”
“Of course, feel free!”
Zhou Xing hurriedly moved to the side, opening up a path for Wang Chong.
In truth, he direly wished for the other party to leave. Even though the imperial prison housed all kinds of prisoners, this person definitely did not belong there!
Wang Chong chuckled casually. He walked past the guards and proceeded forward. Not too far away, a carriage was prepared for him.
Zhou Xing had arranged it for him.
Wang Chong walked into the carriage, and it rumbled off into the distance. Traveling through the complicated labyrinth of the palace, Wang Chong could sense many presences assessing him both in the open and in the shadows.
——The regional commanders incident had not only attracted the attention of the academic and military officials on the royal court, even the Imperial Army was alarmed as well. On top of that, Wang Chong possessed immense fame within the palace as the swordsmith for the Wootz steel sword.
As he approached the palace doors, the cheerings crescendoed. Even the air trembled before the frenzied voices.
Finally, the carriage reached the palace gates and stopped.
As soon as Wang Chong alighted, he heard delighted exclaims. Turning around, at around fifty meters away from the palace gates, he saw two familiar figures walking toward him.
Zhao Fengchen was an old acquaintance from the Bluebottle Pavilion whereas Uncle Li Lin was a kin. Wang Chong’s eyes lit up as he saw the duo.
The royal palace was out of bounds to most, and even influential officials and the kings couldn’t enter the royal palace freely. However, Uncle Li Lin and Zhao Fengchen were different.
From the very start, the royal palace was their territory.
“Hahaha, lad, you’re finally out!”
“Chong-er, you sure kept us waiting!”
The duo walked up and hugged Wang Chong tightly.
“Ahhh… Let go, you two are too strong. I’m about to be crushed!”
“Hahaha, what does this little bit of strength count as? I haven’t even gotten serious yet!”
The duo laughed heartily.
Even though Wang Chong’s neck had reddened from the massive force, a surge of warmth flowed into his heart. This was the care and concern of a kin!
Three months, he was finally out from the imperial prison!
“Hehe. Actually, I hoped to invite you over to the Imperial Army to have a seat, but from the looks of it, it’ll be impossible today. There are many people waiting for you outside!”
“You should hurry along! Zhu Yan, your big uncle, and the others are waiting for you!”
The duo didn’t take up too much of Wang Chong’s time. They patted his shoulder forcefully and led him to the palace gates.
Passing by the thick palace gates, a ray of sunlight glared down from above. At that instant when Wang Chong stepped out——
Thunderous cheerings several times louder than what he heard within the palace boomed in his ears.
“Chong gongzi is out!”
“Look, it’s Wang gongzi!”
Outside the palace, the crowd roared in delight.
It took Wang Chong a while to adapt to the glaring sunlight. When he finally slowly opened his eyes and saw the huge masses of people gathered here, he was stunned.
Back then, when he was still in the palace, he did not think much of it. Only when he finally walked out did he realize how big a crowd had gathered for him. From the palace gates to as far as the eye could see, humans filled nearly every inch of space.
Even the rooftops and trees weren’t an exception to the rule. Every single one of these people was staring in his direction with an overjoyed look.
No matter how he looked at it, the people here had to number in the ten thousands.
A chanting suddenly began amidst the crowd. The sight of tens of thousand of people yelling out the name of the person that they earnestly respected was a spectacular one.
Standing at the palace gates, Wang Chong was taken aback by the sight.
Even though he heard the cheering from within the palace, he didn’t think that so many people would be here to welcome him back. Be it scions, nobles, ordinary civilians, rich merchants, beggars, all of them had an earnest smile on their faces which reflected their delight at his release.
Many of them, Wang Chong had never seen or heard before. But on this day of his release, all of them gathered together to celebrate this joyous occasion with him!
This was the first time Wang Chong had had so many people cheering and caring for him.
Standing beneath the sunlight, Wang Chong felt warmness enveloping his body.
This was the Central Plains. This was Great Tang. As long as what you did was right, the citizens would support you. Be it rich merchants, poor beggars, nobles, ordinary civilians, or even proud scions, they would earnestly express their support for you!
There was a scale in everyone’s heart, allowing even the proudest scions to discern right from wrong before such major incidents.
Wang Chong spent three months in the imperial prison, but at this very instant, he felt that everything he did was worth it.
“Enjoy all of these well! Today, be it influential officials or military generals, all of them have specially come just for you. Today is your day! Chong-er, I’m happy for you!”
A familiar voice echoed beside Wang Chong. Dressed in an official robe, Big Uncle Wang Gen walked over with widened strides. He forcefully patted Wang Chong’s shoulders, and pride shone through clearly on his face.
Wang Chong was not his son, but at this instant, Wang Gen felt proud that there was such an offspring in the Wang Clan.
Wang Chong’s eyes rippled.
The ones who came this welcome him today wasn’t just big uncle. Amidst the crowd, Wang Chong saw Little Uncle Wang Mi, Big Aunt Wang Ru Shuang, Cousin Wang Liang, and Cousin Wang Li.
Wang Li’s face was still cold, but his eyes betrayed his true emotions.
Other than his kin, Wang Chong saw many familiar faces amidst the welcoming crowd as well. Elder Ye, Duke of Hu, Elder Sun, Elder Ma… All of grandfather’s old subordinates were gathered here as well. They were cheering and applauding for him enthusiastically for him.
There were also many officials whose faces were foreign to Wang Chong as well.
But one common trait they shared was that their smile.
Suddenly, amidst the crowd, a burst of fireworks shot into the skies, and many others quickly followed suit. This sight was not just limited to the palace entrance; the entire capital, near and far, regardless of whether Wang Chong had ever been there or not, everyone chose to ignite their fireworks and firecrackers on this very day to celebrate with Wang Chong.
A joyous mood wafted through the capital!
Wang Chong didn’t stay here for too long. Under big uncle’s lead, after greeting the various officials of the royal court, he dived into a carriage prepared for him.
A moment ago, Wang Chong was still immersed in the joy of returning, but at the next instant, a pale and slim leg appeared in Wang Chong’s sight, causing his eyes to widen. Then, with a loud boom, massive force pushed Wang Chong onto the floor, locking him down onto the mat of the carriage, rendering him incapable of movement.
Wang Chong was taken aback. Even though it was only a momentary glance, he clearly saw an austere-looking figure dressed in red robe in front of him before he was knocked down. It was no other than his cousin, Wang Zhu Yan.
This explained why he didn’t see her amidst the crowd; she had been hiding here all along.
A moment ago, Wang Chong was still enjoying the eyes of admiration of the crowd, and the very next moment, he was smashed onto the ground. This twist was truly abrupt.
“Stinky brat! The next time you dare to write this kind of nonsensical memorial without thinking it through, don’t blame your Second Sister for getting nasty!”
Before Wang Chong could speak, a voice above him echoed coldly.
Initially, Wang Chong’s body was still stiff and he was prepared to struggle against the massive force pushing him down. However, upon hearing these words, his heart felt warm and the tenseness in his body vanished.
“Second Sister, I admit that it’s my fault. I won’t be so reckless in the future.”
Wang Chong spoke quietly.
“Remember your words!”
Cousin Wang Zhu Yan’s voice remained cold but she removed her feet anyway. Then, she walked to the side and turned her head away from Wang Chong.
However, Wang Chong still noticed the moisture and redness in his cousin’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Second Sister.”
Wang Chong took a seat and apologized earnestly.
Even though they were not true siblings, and she would occasionally act violently and unreasonably toward him, without a doubt, his Second Sister truly treated him well.
Many times, Wang Chong felt that his cousin wasn’t any different from his true sister.
If not for her care and concern, perhaps, she wouldn’t have been so furious.
“Do you know how big of an issue you’ve caused? This isn’t a joking affair! Do you even know how worried your mother, little uncle, my father, and the rest of us are?”
Cousin Wang Zhu Yan’s face was still cold, but her complexion had alleviated significantly.
This regional commanders incident was a huge blow and trial for the entire Wang Clan. Even though it ended well and Wang Chong was eventually released, all of them understood how close to danger they were.
So many Hu generals, including those from the borders and protectorates, had demanded Wang Chong’s death. The immense pressure the Wang Clan was under was unimaginable to others.
Wang Zhu Yan had almost thought that Wang Chong would really die.
Wang Chong had gotten into trouble on numerable occasions, but he had never gotten into such a huge mess.
How could Wang Zhu Yan not be worried? How could she not be angry?
“Hehe, Second Sister, aren’t I alright? Right, I’ve prepared a small present for you!”
With a fawning smile on his face, Wang Chong whipped out an object.
“Don’t think I’ll fall for that trick, do you think that you can divert my attention so easily? Un, what’s that object? How ugly!”
“Hehe, this is called a hair clip. I made it from a strip of metal. It can hold your hair in place. If you think that it looks ugly, I can redesign it. It should look pretty after I put a butterfly on it.”
Wang Chong chuckled.
Wang Chong’s hair clip was actually just a simple metal strip bent into a ‘u’ shape. This was the most basic design of a hair clip. But of course, building on this basic design, one could make all kinds of beautiful hair clips.
This was just the primary product.
Wang Chong wasn’t too interested in such matters, and he didn’t expect to make a fortune out of this either. Just pleasing his cousin and her group of friends with these objects was sufficient for him.
As expected, cousin gave the hair clip a try and after realizing that it worked, her interest was piqued. With her attention diverted, she no longer brought up the issue of Wang Chong being imprisoned anymore.
However, she complained that the hair clip was too ugly, and demanded him to make a few pretty ones out.
What else could Wang Chong say? Of course he hurriedly agreed to it.