Chapter 10: The Test of Three Questions
After sending off the crown prince, Jun Huang started planning on how she would take her leave of Nan Xun. She’d come to Northern Qi in order to destroy Eastern Wu for revenge. This journey would no doubt be fraught with peril. Although Nan Xun had a strong faction in Northern Qi, his enemies were everywhere. If she stayed in Prince Nan Manor, she would certainly bring untold trouble to him.
“Is something the matter?” Nan Xun asked faintly when he noticed Jun Huang seemingly biting back words. Western Qu’s princess is indeed extraordinary. She managed to send the crown prince packing with just a few words. Nan Xun was abruptly revising his impression of Jun Huang yet again.
“Just now… thank you,” Jun Huang responded. Nan Xun was a prince of Northern Qi, but he had openly defied the crown prince for her, a commoner. She had to express her gratitude for his protection just now.
“It was nothing,” Nan Xun shook his head.
Nevertheless, what needed to be said still had to be said. Jun Huang took a deep breath in. “Since we’ve already reached Northern Qi, Baiyu dares not impose further. And so, I think I should take my leave today…”
“Alright,” Nan Xun responded.
“I came to Northern Qi to… wait, you said alright?” It took a while for Jun Huang to realize that Nan Xun had already agreed. Her eyes widened in surprise.
“I know that Sir Feng is no ordinary character. Furthermore, a character of your stature would not stay long in Prince Nan Manor. I’d just never thought that Sir Feng would take his leave after a night’s stay.” Nan Xun explained his reaction patiently.
“Oh, I see…” Jun Huang responded absentmindedly, an intangible sense of disappointment in her heart. She’d thought that Nan Xun would seek to keep her when she raised the issue of leaving, and she’d gone to the effort of brainstorming a treasure trove of excuses to use. She’d also been conflicted for such a long time as to how she could broach the matter, but… he’d already thought of the reason for her!
The corner of Nan Xun’s lips couldn’t help but curl when he saw how disappointed she seemed. “It’s not like we’re parting forever. You’re welcome to come find me here whenever you run into trouble.”
It was just that one sentence, but it somehow cheered up Jun Huang’s mood. She couldn’t help but blush at the realization. What’s gotten into me? Jun Huang hastily flung out a quick, “Then thanks!” and ran out hastily, as if there were ghosts chasing her out of the manor.
Nan Xun’s eyes followed her until she vanished outside the front door, the laughter hovering at the corners of her lips vanishing instantly. “Wuqing, Wushuang!” he commanded in a low tone.1
“Master.” Two shadowy figures appeared soundlessly in front of Nan Xun.
“Follow her,” Nan Xun ordered coldly. “Don’t appear unless her life is in danger.”
“Understood!” Wuqing and Wushuang responded, melting away into the shadows. Nan Xun took a long look in the direction that Jun Huang had disappeared into, the look in his eyes complicated and hard to define.
To know one’s enemy as well as one knows thine self, that is the foundation for continued success on the battlefield. Therefore, Jun Huang had already plotted out what she would do after reaching the Qi capital along her journey. There were three princes of the blood in Northern Qi. Of the three, only Crown Prince Qi Yin and Second Prince Qi Chen could help further her plans. She’d already met the crown prince; the two had left a mutually unfavorable impression on each other. Therefore, there was only choice left, Second Prince Qi Chen.
The biggest question now was how she could obtain Qi Chen’s trust. Jun Huang pondered the matter after leaving the Prince Nan Manor, slowly ambling her way to the Prince Chen Manor. However, she had yet to reach it when she saw a large gang of people gathered in front of it from afar.
“So many answers, but not a single one chosen!”
“Isn’t that so! These three questions look simple, but one needs a wealth of knowledge to answer them!”
“Whoever can solve these questions is certainly a wise talent unparalleled by any other!”
Jun Huang’s eyes gleamed when she took in the chatter around her. Her feet quickened their pace. Prince Chen had set questions for which to recruit strategists with! And here she was fretting on how to obtain his trust. This was a perfect opportunity.
There was a high stage set up outside the princely manor with a signboard nailed down in the middle. Prince Chen’s questions were inscribed on that signboard. Off to the side stood a gong. Anyone who felt that they could answer the questions only needed to bang on the gong.
Jun Huang drew close to the stage and started to peer at the questions. When she saw them clearly, her lips curved upwards in a slight smile. These questions were indeed easy. Those who’d gone beforehand had failed likely because they hadn’t accurately fathomed Prince Chen’s intentions.
There were three questions:
What is loyalty?
What is filial piety?
What is justice?
Indeed, she’d made the right choice in coming to find Prince Chen. Goooong~ A scholar clad in white robes rang the gong as she was thinking. At long last, someone was finally making another attempt. In that moment, the white robed scholar was the center of everyone’s attention. Jun Huang also paused her ruminations and raised her head to see how the scholar would respond.
The scholar took the stage, raised a cupped fist salute, and took a deep breath before beginning his answer. “The first question of loyalty. Of all the virtues in the world, there is none greater than loyalty. Loyalty should be sincere and committed from the bottom of one’s heart. The second question of filial piety. Filial piety is the root of all virtue. To honor one’s parents and abide by their will is filial piety. The third question of justice. Justice is following what is appropriate, being truthful, and following through with one’s promises.” He raised his hands in a cupped fist salute again when he was finished.
The applause beneath the stage was thunderous as the audience discussed this answer with great interest.
“His answers were good! He fully explained loyalty, filial piety, and justice!”
“More than that! He connected all of the questions together, what a wondrous feat!”
The light in Jun Huang’s eyes twinkled as she shook her head on the inside. Although the answers had been good and even exemplary in many regards, there was a fatal flaw to his answers—they weren’t what Prince Chen wanted!
Indeed, although the audience was in an uproar over these answers, the examiner on stage was still very calm. He slowly pronounced the results when the hubbub had slightly receded. “This gentleman answered in an ingenious fashion with his own take on loyalty, filial piety, and justice. However, this gentleman’s definition of them all is too narrow. You may take your leave.”
The audience immediately flared up into an uproar. This kind of answer still wasn’t satisfactory?? Then just what kind of answer would be accepted?!
This result was within Jun Huang’s expectations, and she ran over her answer in her mind once more. After doing so, she walked forward confidently and rang the gong.
Goong~ The sound of the gong ringing silenced the crowd for a moment before the din returned in full. The person who’d gone before had such a perfect answer, but he still hadn’t qualified! And here was someone daring to challenge these three questions again? Was this newcomer full of hot air or did they really possess the ability to be so confident?
“What answer might this gentleman have?” The examiner was unperturbed by the crowd’s voices as he maintained his calm demeanor.
Jun Huang raised her hands in an assured cupped fist salute, sweeping her gaze beneath the stage. When the crowd noted how at ease Jun Huang seemed to be, they slowly simmered down and waited quietly for her response. She didn’t speak until she’d commanded everyone’s attention. Jun Huang answered slowly, “Although Prince Chen has listed three questions, they are in fact all related to one another. Therefore, I only have one answer.”
“One answer? One answer is good enough for all three questions?”
“He’s just boasting, isn’t he?”
“Let’s see what he says first. What kind of answer does he have to make the ludicrous claim that one answer is good enough for all three!?”
“……” Those beneath the stage began murmuring again after hearing Jun Huang’s words. They were all waiting to see if she was just boasting emptily or really did have some skill to her name.