In the first month of the first year of Tongtian, the eleventh-year of the sixty-year cycle, Jiang Zhe, as a subordinate of the Prince of Yong, lined up according to his rank in the Great Yong court. The Yong Emperor summoned all of officialdom to a banquet. On the second day of the New Year, the Emperor decreed that all young elites compare their skills outside the Vermillion Bird Gate. The Emperor indicated that he would bestow rewards to those who made superior displays. In reality, the Emperor was choosing a husband for Princess Changle. Towards these outstanding heroes, the Princess was taciturn and uncommunicative. When the competition ended, the Emperor asked the Princess her intentions. Sobbing, the Princess replied, “This child’s husband is still alive. How can I remarry?” At first, the Emperor was angry and indignant before ultimately becoming sorrowful. Noble Consort Zhangsun was anxious, comforting both sides. The Princess was silent. Afterwards, the Noble Consort secretly questioned the Princess’s palace maids. The palace maids reported that although the Princess was watching the competition from upstairs, she did not pay particular attention to any of the participants. She was only happy and delighted when she saw the Prince of Yong’s Major. The Noble Consort thus understood.…
—Southern Chu Dynastic Records, Biography of Jiang Suiyun
A pair of large black eyes very carefully gazed at that tall figure. He should have fallen asleep, right? The pair of fair and delicate hands dropped to the floor and began to move forward. Drawing support from the knees, she moved forward at lightning speed. Closer, even closer before the small hands reached out and grabbed the target. This quickness was absolutely as fast as lightning. But who would have imagined that there was someone else who was much faster. A flash before the eyes and her objective had been snatched away. “Wah!” the little infant began to cry, shaking the world. Following, a pair of hands picked up and embraced the baby girl in a fluster, both menacing and amusing her. But the baby girl did not give even a bit of face. It was only until another hand brought over a big headed doll, carved from wood and wrapped in silk and cotton, waving it in front of the baby girl, did she sniffle and begin to laugh. She reached out towards the doll that was almost her size, squeaking to express her delight.
After wiping away the cold sweat from his head, Xiaoshunzi reproached, “Young master, you shouldn’t always be bullying the young miss. If the Princess of Yong finds out, she will definitely rebuke you for lacking in steadiness.”
I subconsciously pulled back my head. Yesterday, I had only deliberately used a toy to lead Roulan to chase me and develop her response ability, and ended up being called before the princess. From behind a curtain, she admonished me. Today if the princess were to find out that I had caused Roulan to cry, wouldn’t the result be even more wretched? I promptly looked to see if the little rascal was present to report on my wrongdoings. Seeing that he was not present, I nodded my head with satisfaction. Because the heir, Li Jun, would soon depart for Youzhou to protect it on the Prince of Yong’s behalf, he had been called over today by the Prince of Yong. This was the result of my reminder to the Prince of Yong. Otherwise, this little rascal would always be off to the side keeping an eye on me. Yesterday, it was him who complained to the princess.
However, there was another obstacle. I looked at Xiaoshunzi and said, “Xiaoshunzi, you should go take a look at the martial arts exhibition and skill competition. Look at how their martial arts are and see who is the most likely to triumph. This matter is of utmost importance.”
Xiaoshunzi indifferently asked, “Hasn’t His Imperial Highness already dispatched people to take a look?”
I was silenced by him but soon retorted, “Isn’t it because I trust you?”
Xiaoshunzi asked profoundly, “Is young master thinking about continuing to bully young miss, Roulan?”
I quickly shook my head and replied, “No, no. Roulan is my treasured darling, why would I bully her?”
“If that’s the case, then this servant will go take look,” said Xiaoshunzi with a laugh. “Young master, you must remember that if the Princess gets angry, then I’m afraid that you’ll have to suffer.”
Looking at Xiaoshunzi’s departing figure, I smiled evilly, walking towards the happily playing Roulan. Opening my mouth, I spoke, “Little Rou’er, daddy is coming over to play with you.”
The baby girl did not know the dangerous situation she was in. Raising her head, she tossed aside the doll, opening her arms, asking me to embrace her. I stared blankly at her, a warm feeling welling up from the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t help but pick her up and embrace her, kissing her little face that was like an apple. After she squeaked for some time, she called out, “Daddy.”
I couldn’t help but be filled with joy. Holding Roulan in my arms, I spun around several times. The laughter, like the ringing of a silver bell, began to sound. This was Roulan’s favorite game.
After snatching some leisure, I walked into the Prince of Yong’s study with my mood happy and free of worry. As expected, the Prince of Yong was present going over documents. Although his expression was dull, it carried a hint of displeasure. I stepped forward and bowed, speaking, “Your Imperial Highness, how is the situation outside?”
Li Zhi lifted his head and looked at me. His expression relaxed before he asked, “Suiyun, who do you think is the most suitable to be Changle’s husband, the Emperor’s son-in-law?”
Pondering, I replied, “From what this subject knows, Wei Ying, Qin Qing, and Xiahou Yuanfeng are the most outstanding of the participants. This subject has not been in Chang’an for long and does not know who is more suitable.”
That day, after returning to the Prince of Yong’s residence, Li Zhi informed me that the competition had another hidden purpose. As it turned out, Li Yuan was focused on making up for the suffering that the Princess Changle had experienced. Therefore, the emperor was intent on finding a new husband for her. However, Zhao Jia, the King of Southern Chu, was still present in Chang’an. Li Yuan could not openly go about selecting a new husband and thus borrowed the competition to allow Noble Consort Zhangsun and Princess Changle to look upon the outstanding young talents of Great Yong and pick a son-in-law with both suitable appearance and moral standing. At present, this news was extremely secret. Outside of the members of the harem, no one else knew the truth of the matter. Li Zhi had learned of this from his wife, Lady Gao. These last several years, Noble Consort Zhangsun had no children by her side. Lady Gao had always been virtuous and filial. As Li Zhi was the one who suggested the discord ploy that caused Princess Changle to be married to Southern Chu, therefore he frequently had Lady Gao to enter the palace to call upon the noble consort. Over these years, the relationship between the two was as close as mother and daughter. Therefore, Noble Consort Zhangsun had asked Lady Gao’s opinion.
I did not mention this subject to the Prince of Yong. Ever since I had learned the real reason behind this competition, I was extremely angry. This was not because Great Yong did not even worry about the continued existence of Zhao Jia. This was because from start to finish, Princess Changle had never displayed any real feelings towards toward Zhao Jia, so much so that I even suspected that there was something underhanded that caused Princess Changle’s miscarriage. However, although I sympathized with Princess Changle’s bitter experiences, I did not approve of her behavior. Regardless of all else, the king was still alive. Even if she wished to remarry, she should not be so anxious to do so. At the very least, she should wait to remarry until she no longer had any official relationship with the king. In reality, I had always been extremely angry. If it weren’t for the existence of Roulan, comforting my spirits, I was afraid that I would have exploded in anger long ago. After I had calmed down, I thought that it was better to let it pass. Princess Changle was a pride of the Heavens. Why should I put her on a pedestal and consider her to be too perfect? Perhaps it was because of her secret tears during her wedding, and her sweet temperament and agreeable personality during the audience with her at the temporary palace, that caused me to engender feelings of sympathy and a favorable impression towards her.
Since the Prince of Yong was now asking me, I would use an objective manner as much as possible to comment on this matter’s effect.
Shooting a glance at the Prince of Yong, I replied, “In the eyes of those people who use their heads, the Emperor’s doting on the Princess is a connection. If the Princess does not choose a suitable person, not only will this be detrimental for Your Imperial Highness, but this will also inevitably injure the Princess’s heart. If this happens then I’m afraid that Your Imperial Highness will forever be unable to obtain the Emperor’s and the Noble Consort’s forgiveness and understanding. The best outcome would certainly be the Princess marrying Your Imperial Highness’s choice. The next best would be to have her marry a neutral party. Although this subject is unclear about these individuals’ real inclinations, Grand General Qin’s neutrality is definite. If the Princess were to marry Qin Qing that would probably be the best outcome.”
Li Zhi revealed a happy expression. However, he instead said, “This Prince admires your disregard for Qin Qing’s insults towards you, impartially expressing your opinion. However, I’m afraid that it’s impossible for Qin Qing to become the choice. Originally, he and Changle grew up together as childhood friends.1 If it weren’t for Changle being married off to Southern Chu, Qin Qing would probably have been the Emperor’s son-in-law. When I had my wife ask the Noble Consort for her desire, the Noble Consort stated that before Changle departed for Southern Chu, Qin Qing once asked Changle to elope. However, Changle refused.
“At the time, Changle said, ‘I am the honored daughter of the imperial clan and have received the grace and kindness of the common people. How could I ignore the empire and the affairs of state? If I were to selfishly run away, not only would this harm the imperial clan’s reputation, it would also hurt the feelings of her Imperial Father and Mother. Even if Imperial Father dispatched another member of the imperial clan to Southern Chu, Great Yong would inevitably have lost its sincerity and cause Southern Chu to become unhappy. As a result, the marriage alliance would fail, leaving behind boundless repercussions. Although I, Changle, am a only a weak woman, I dare not commit such a disloyal, unvirtuous, and unfilial act.’
“In reality, Imperial Father and the Noble Consort were both aware of this. But caring for the face of Grand General Qin and also taking pity on Changle, they therefore did not charge Qin Qing with a crime. Nowadays, Qin Qing has also thought of expressing his interest in taking Changle as his bride to the Noble Consort, but Changle was firm in her refusal. Therefore, this competition was set up to choose her husband. Outsiders do not yet know of this matter. However, I’m afraid that Qin Qing’s efforts will be for naught.”
Although I did not know why Princess Changle had rejected Qin Qing, I did not have any choice but to carefully consider the present outcome. Thinking carefully, I said, “Xiahou Yuanfeng has appearance and talent that surpasses others. I’m afraid that he would not show the proper considerations2 towards the Princess. In addition, his father is part of the Crown Prince’s faction. Although Wei Guan is inclined towards the Crown Prince, he will not go so far as to openly express his support. Wei Ying’s character is out of the ordinary. If the Princess is able to acquire such a good match, we can expect her be happy.”
The Prince of Yong sighed and replied, “This Prince feels that way as well. However, rumor has it that the Crown Prince is supporting Xiahou Yuanfeng. He has even persuaded the Empress, saying that Xiahou Yuanfeng is talented and good-looking, and does not participate in the court battles. He will be suitable to take good care of the Princess. He even said that Xiahou Yuanfeng fell in love with the Princess at first sight and will certainly not raise marital strife due to past events. In comparison, Wei Ying is a dragon amongst men, his future career prospects inevitably illustrious. If he one day turns his back upon the Princess, an otherwise happy thing will unavoidably become disastrous. The Empress was persuaded and seems interested in Xiahou Yuanfeng. The Emperor also greatly favors Xiahou Yuanfeng and seems to be of mind to permit this union.”
“Could it be that the Crown Prince is intentionally trying to obtain the Princess’s support and strength?” I inquired with a heavy face before I continued, “The entire world knows that the Princess is doted upon. If Xiahou Yuanfeng borrows the Princess’s strength, I’m afraid that this person will be impossible to control.”
Li Zhi smiled wryly and responded, “I have also dispatched people to participate. However, although I have as many fierce subordinate generals as the number of clouds, this kind of well-rounded character with exquisite looks is difficult to find. Even if there are several, their family backgrounds are not illustrious. To say nothing of the fact that if I dispatched people, I’m afraid Qin Qing would bear the brunt of it. Regardless of success, it will offend Qin Qing. What’s more …”
Li Zhi seemed to want to say something more, but hesitated. I took the opportunity to carry on what he was saying, “What’s more, this will cause people to believe that Your Imperial Highness covets the Princess’s strength and does not care about the relationship between brother and sister.”
Li Zhi continued to smile wryly. Looking at me, he spoke, “Although I have no wish to hinder Changle’s happiness, it would be detrimental to me if she were to marry Xiahou Yuanfeng. What do you think this Prince should do?”
I bowed my head and thought it over, suggesting, “Your Imperial Highness should not be overly worried. Regardless of what the Emperor and the Empress think, the one making the decision is still the Princess herself. The Noble Consort’s opinion will also influence the Princess. Why doesn’t Your Imperial Highness invite the Princess of Yong to advise and persuade the Noble Consort? I believe that the Noble Consort would not be at ease with the Princess marrying Xiahou Yuanfeng. When all is said and done, he is too young and is insufficiently stable. The Princess will once again experience suffering. She requires a considerate and tender, steady and upright individual to take care of her.”
Li Zhi happily replied, “That’s right! In fairness, if we don’t consider anything else, I also would not feel at ease if Changle were to marry Xiahou Yuanfeng. He is too young and too unsteady.”
On the fourth day of the New Year, outside of the Vermillion Bird Gate, the martial arts exhibition reached the climax. After the preliminary competition ended yesterday, today became the day when first place was determined. In the wide expanse before the gate, a fierce battle between giants occurred. Seated on a platform on the west side of the competition grounds were the emperor, the empress, and Noble Consort Zhangsun accompanying Princess Changle watching the competition. The other consorts and concubines were seated behind them. These members of the harem were rarely permitted to come out. As a result, all of them were in high spirits.
The last horse race was occurring at this moment. Of the competitors, the greatest shouts were for Wei Ying and Xiahou Yuanfeng. Wei Ying’s Ferghana horse and Xiahou Yuanfeng’s good colt from Great Wan3 were both excellent horses. While Xiahou Yuanfeng’s Great Wan horse was a bit inferior, his horsemanship surpassed Wei Ying. Therefore, the race was even. After the red flag signaled, the two took the lead and charged out, leaving all the other horses far behind. As they reached the end of the racetrack, the two turned their horses around to race back. Relying upon his superior horsemanship, Xiahou Yuanfeng was a bit faster. However, Wei Ying was not lacking. Using the formidable strength of the Ferghana horse, he was able to catch up. During the last sprinting stage, the two used all of their endurance. Ultimately, it was Wei Ying who prevailed, becoming the winner of the first part of the competition.
Noble Consort Zhangsun happily said, “As expected, Gentleman Wei is well-rounded. I, your servant, still feel that he is the most suitable for Zhen’er.”
The empress said instead, “In reality, Yuanfeng, this child, is also not bad. If it weren’t because his horse was somewhat inferior, he probably would have beaten Wei Ying. In addition, he’s participating in all three parts of the competition. Even if he takes second in all three, that in itself is not easy.”
Li Yuan also nodded his head and said, “Xiahou is indeed a young outstanding hero. However, Wei Ying’s character is serious and proper, and he is a master of both brush and sword. He is also a fairly good choice.”
Noble Consort Zhangsun was somewhat concerned. She looked at Princess Changle, but saw that there was not a hint of happiness on her face, merely looking out silently upon the competition grounds. At this moment, Noble Consort Yan suddenly said, “Your Imperial Majesty, His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince, and His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Yong, have both arrived.”
Noble Consort Zhangsun looked around, only seeing Crown Prince Li An and Prince Li Zhi of Yong in casual dress. There were specially provided seats below the spectator platform that were for them. The previous two days, they had not personally come. Today, they by chance had come.
Hearing that the Prince of Yong had arrived, Princess Changle could not help but look over. Sure enough, she caught sight of that person beside the Prince of Yong. He was as always dressed in a set of unadorned azure robes, filled with outstanding literary grace. He was seated beside second brother, speaking and laughing. Behind him stood a handsome, but feminine youth. He seemed to sense her gaze and coldly looked over. The icy gaze of those eyes caused Princess Changle’s heart to tremble. It seemed as if she had once seen this pair of frigid eyes and person with such temperament before. At this moment, that youth stepped forward and poured tea for that person. Although they were downstairs and she was upstairs, the distance was not that far. Princess Changle could clearly see that the fair pair of hands were somewhat pale. Princess Changle’s heart almost leaped out of her chest. Was it him … was it him? She once again looked towards the handsome appearance of her memories. Can it really be him? The mysterious person who had made Liang Wan insane, who forced over a dozen spies to commit suicide, and who had let her go.… If it really was him, then Princess Changle no longer found it strange why he had left her off. She still remembered their only meeting. She also remembered the poetry that he had delivered to the palace. She could faintly discern that this refined and distinguished youth had understood her own worries and sorrow long ago. He would not blame her for departing Southern Chu. Her face revealed an incomparably tender and happy smile, but suddenly Princess Changle was unexpectedly filled with sorrow. It was impossible for him and her to have a future. She lowered her head; she almost wanted to leave immediately. At this moment, Emperor Li Yuan happily exclaimed, “Excellent archery!”
The second competition was archery. Qin Qing shot with great precision, his arrows hitting the center of the target. Xiahou Yuanfeng did not show any weakness, matching him arrow after arrow. At the end, the two were tied for first. Qin Qing did not accept this result. If they were on the battlefield, the situation would not be this ideal. However, since the emperor had already judged this a tie, he could only helplessly accept this result.
Li Zhi shook his head slightly. Having spent many years in the army, he understood how easy it was to shoot at targets like this. However, if this were horse archery, then it wouldn’t be this easy. However, this was an exhibition and not a grand competition within the army. Naturally, he had no alternative. Turning to Jiang Zhe, he said, “If you are having an archery competition, it is better if it is a horse archery one. In my army, scouts reporting back with military intelligence use bow and arrow to report. At a distance of five hundred paces, they must ride their horse at full gallop and shoot their bows, and are required to shoot their whistling arrows to the targets outside of the encampments. This kind of archery competition is rather useless.”
I was speechless. No wonder the Prince of Yong’s troops were so elite and famous throughout the world. When the emperor and empress saw the taciturn Princess Changle, they were somewhat concerned. In a low voice, the empress asked, “Changle, we think that this child, Xiahou, is not bad. Is he not to your liking?”
Noble Consort Zhangsun promptly said, “Zhen’er, if you aren’t impressed by him … regardless of who you fancy, be he Wei Ying, Qin Qing, or any of the other young talents, your Imperial Father will not block it.”
Seeing Princess Changle remain silent, Li Yuan smiled and said, “There’s still another competition. Maybe there is a candidate that Changle will take a fancy to.” However, his smile was somewhat forced, presumably sensing the opposition in Princess Changle’s silence.
At this moment, in the competition grounds below, Xiahou Yuanfeng and a blacked-clothed youth were standing facing one another. This black-clothed youth had distinct edges to his face and was calm and composed. His figure was similar to that of Xiahou Yuanfeng’s, but his body was not as slender and he was not as handsome. From top to bottom, his entire body revealed a sturdy and fierce aura, as if his body contained an explosive force. His movements were as graceful as a black panther. I looked at the black-clothed youth, my thoughts filled with praise and admiration. I asked, “Your Imperial Highness, who is this person?”
Li Zhi answered, “He is called Pei Yun and was originally the fierce frontline general under the Prince of Qi. He is a layman disciple of the Shaolin Temple. Reportedly the man’s martial arts are extraordinary. Several years ago, after his two older brothers died in battle, his father, Attendant Gentleman of the Palace Secretariat Pei Jing petitioned the Emperor to request that he be transferred back to the capital. Imperial Father empathized with the fact that the Pei family had only this son left and thus issued an edict, recalling him. At present, he is the Commander of the Northern Barracks of the Imperial Guard. The man is loyal and brave, greatly favored by both the emperor and Grand General Qin. However, his temperament is somewhat strange and he does not like to associate himself with others. Were it not for this, he would likely be someone that Imperial Father considers as a candidate to be his son-in-law. Purportedly, he’s only taking part in this competition because of Xiahou Yuanfeng. This man is considered as the foremost expert in the Imperial Guard. There is much dispute over who is the greatest young expert between him and Xiahou Yuanfeng. Ordinarily, they are restricted by their status and cannot compete. This time, he has come to take advantage and fight.”
Glancing at Xiaoshunzi, I inquired, “You’ve seen their previous spars. Who do you think will win?”
Xiaoshunzi impartially responded, “Pei Yun is an expert from the Shaolin Temple. I believe the martial art that he trains in is the one of the Seventy-Two Consummate Arts, the Divine Diamond (Vajra) Force. Moreover, he has grasped seventy percent of its power. In another ten years, Xiahou Yuanfeng will definitely not be his equal.”
Hearing what he said, Li Zhi asked, “Then is he currently inferior to Xiahou Yuanfeng?”
Xiaoshunzi replied, “Reporting to Your Highness … the martial arts route taken by Xiahou Yuanfeng is soft and yin-principled. As a result, his advancement has been swift. However, during the later stages, he will inevitably experience several setbacks. If he does not have ability, wisdom, and perseverance surpassing that of a normal person, I’m afraid that he will not reach great heights. Therefore, at present, his martial arts are stronger than Pei Yun’s. However, it will also not be easy for him to win, as there are other factors in hand-to-hand combat. Since Pei Yun is a valiant general who has fought in battle, his calm and resolve exceed that of an ordinary person. Therefore, the result should be forty to sixty. Pei Yun still has a chance.”
The two men were presently exchanging greetings before they began to fight. Xiahou Yuanfeng used a sword, while Pei Yun used a saber. Although I did not understand martial arts, I could sense the agile and leisurely nature of the sword in Xiahou Yuanfeng’s hand, which caused the entire stage to be filled with the dancing light of snow. In comparison, Pei Yun’s bladesmanship was steady, its defense extremely tight. Its style was strict, noble and ancient, filled with the ambiance of a great expert.
Xiaoshunzi watched this competition conscientiously, his gaze extremely passionate. I could not help but ask, “How about it? At present, who holds the advantage?”
Xiaoshunzi answered, “Pei Yun is using the form of the Six Harmonies Blade, directly handed down from the Shaolin Temple. This is very different from the sword style that has been circulated outside. He has trained this sword style to the point of perfection. Xiahou Yuanfeng’s swordsmanship is the Sword of the Yue Maiden. According to legend, this swordsmanship has been passed down since the Spring and Autumn Period. This style is broad and deep. Although Pei Yun’s defense is firm, if he is unable to strike back, then it’s useless. I can see that Xiahou Yuanfeng’s internal energy is pure. It is unlikely that he will run out of stamina.”
At this moment, Pei Yun suddenly let out a muted shout, his bladesmanship changing, becoming sharp and fierce. However, it still maintained an undertone of mercy. This kind of contradiction left the spectators thinking pensively. Astonished, Xiaoshunzi said, “This is the secretly transmitted Shaolin martial art, the Asura Blade Art. It uses the methods of an asura, while bringing out the mercy in one’s heart. As expected, it is not ordinary.”
For a moment, the light of the sword and saber on the stage were gorgeous and splendid. An intense smell of blood emerged. At this moment, Xiahou Yuanfeng’s figure became vertical, jumping into the air. Following, he flipped high up in the sky, chopping down with his sword. Pei Yun raised his saber, forcibly receiving the sword strike. Although Xiahou Yuanfeng was towering above, he was unable to take the slightest bit of advantage. He once again shot up, his figure as vigorous as a hawk, bobbing up and down as if at the edge of the sea. He was like a goshawk hunting a rabbit, like a spring sparrow flitting back and forth, causing all the spectators to cheer in loud voices. Pei Yun was forced to use both hands, becoming flustered. At this moment, Xiahou Yuanfeng had become extremely angry that he had yet to win, suddenly uniting his sword with his body, piercing towards Pei Yun like lightning. Pei Yun held his saber horizontally and accepted Xiahou Yuanfeng’s strike. This strike contained the entirety of Xiahou Yuanfeng’s strength. Pei Yun was left at a disadvantage, shouting clearly and loudly. The saber in his hand broke. As Xiahou Yuanfeng flitted past Pei Yun, his body somehow strangely turned back, striking with his sword. The sword was like a streak of lightning as it directly pierced towards Pei Yun’s heart. Pei Yun’s hand only held a broken saber. All of the spectators cried out in alarm. Pei Yun’s complexion was grave. Throwing down the saber, he greeted Xiahou Yuanfeng with his two fists. One could hear the sounds of metal and steel. As the two figures separated, Xiahou Yuanfeng’s face was gloomy and cold, causing his peerlessly handsome appearance to lose color. In comparison, Pei Yun’s sleeves were fluttering in the air like butterflies. On the skin of his hands and arms, one could faintly discern a golden color. He was completely unharmed.
The sound of a gong could be heard from atop the platform. Not a moment later, a eunuch hurried down with an edict, proclaiming that the emperor commanded that with his weapon broken, Pei Yun had lost. Both were outstanding talents of the court and should not fight to the death.
Although Xiahou Yuanfeng had prevailed, his expression was slightly unhappy. He stepped forward to accept the decree and to give thanks for the emperor’s favor. Pei Yun looked indifferent. After accepting the decree, he withdrew.
With this, the martial arts exhibition concluded. Coming in first in two of the events and second in the third, Xiahou Yuanfeng shone the brightest. Wei Ying and Qin Qing both took first in an event, leaving them satisfied. However, this was beyond the Prince of Yong and mine expectations. The emperor did not announce the selection of a new son-in-law. He didn’t even issue any rewards. What was going on?
青梅竹马, qingmeizhuma – idiom, lit. green plums and hobby-horse; innocent children’s games, childhood sweethearts, a couple who grew up as children
体贴入微, titieruwei – idiom, to show every possible consideration; meticulous care
大宛马 is a horse from Great Wan, an ancient kingdom in Central Asia. In the histories, the horse is considered a type of blood-sweating horse.