Chapter 18: A Visit in the Night
Who can he be? Could the emperor of Eastern Wu know that I’m not dead, and so sent men to assassinate me?! The shadow turned, and she caught a clear glimpse of the its face. Ah… it’s Nan Xun. A relieved smile crept onto her face. But what’s he doing in the Prince Chen Manor at this time of the night?
Jun Huang walked out from behind the divider and coughed lightly. “I’m over here.” Nan Xun wouldn’t harm her.
Nan Xun’s eyes picked up Jun Huang’s figure as he followed the sound, sighing with relief. “What are you doing over there in the middle of the night instead of sleeping?”
Jun Huang didn’t light the lamps as the two of them took a seat. Despite the oddity of their circumstances, their conversation was oddly relaxed. “I hadn’t gone to sleep yet and saw a shadow outside. I thought it was another assassin and took shelter. As for you, what are you doing here in the middle of the night instead of sleeping in your own manor?”
“I heard you were injured and wanted to come see you.” Nan Xun knew that Jun Huang hadn’t been seriously injured. He’d just wanted an excuse to see her.
She looked at the wound on her arm and smiled gently, “No worries, I did this to myself. I know where my limits are.” But her face soon took a grim turn as she asked Nan Xun seriously, “When did you know of my identity?” She felt that Nan Xun was a bit frightening. Since he’d known, why had he pretended like he didn’t know?
“I know regardless, so what does it matter how early or late I found out? As keen as your eyes are, you should already know I wouldn’t harm you.” Jun Huang could indeed only see a bit of heartfelt sympathy and sincerity in Nan Xun’s eyes.
“I understand. But this is the Prince Chen Manor, you shouldn’t stay long.” As Nan Xun took his leave, Jun Huang returned to bed and flopped down to sleep.
Jun Huang recuperated by herself in the house, but not less than two days later, Qi Chen came to visit with a man and a women in tow. Jun Huang could see with a single glance that the two following behind Qi Chen weren’t ordinary servants. They should be Qi Chen’s trusted subordinates.
“Greetings to Your Highness.” Jun Huang bowed to Qi Chen. Looks like he’s here to introduce his people to me. I just wonder how much of his power he’s chosen to share with me.
Qi Chen personally helped Jun Huang up. They took a stroll, chatting as they did so. “These are my people. Together they hold at least half of my authority. If you have any matters you’d like to accomplish, you can leave it to them.”
Jun Huang was well aware that these two would listen to her only because of the prince. If what she wanted to do didn’t benefit the prince, they wouldn’t listen to her commands. She nodded in response and roughly sized up the two behind Qi Chen. Turns out there is a woman he trusts. I wonder if she’s here to seduce me or to help me. “Many thanks to Your Highness. Your people will certainly be of extraordinary help.”
It was Qi Chen’s turn to pour tea for Jun Huang, and the two sat down together. “This is something this prince has promised you and will naturally accomplish.”
“This subordinate is Wei Qian.” The woman, Wei Qian, spoke respectfully.
“I won’t stand on ceremony since His Highness has given you to my care.” Jun Huang nodded at the two of them and smiled her first genuine smile.
“His Highness has given orders that Sir Feng’s commands are his in the future.” Wei Qian smiled gently, a certain dashing air in her face.
Jun Huang wasn’t entranced by pretty words. Qi Chen’s people would only be loyal to him; she was just a mouthpiece.
“This prince has already made all the arrangements. Just give your orders to them and they’ll handle everything for you.” Qi Chen fished out a token from his waist and handed it to Jun Huang. “This is the token with which you can command my people. They will all work for you as long as you hold it.”
Jun Huang accepted Qi Chen’s token. So he was only giving her two people to work with and wasn’t truly taking her into his inner circle. Well well Prince Chen. Aren’t you being cautious! This time however, Jun Huang didn’t turn down this small favor. With this opening, she was sure that she could create opportunities in the future to swap out a great majority of his people.
“Many thanks for Your Highness’ trust.” Jun Huang purposefully emphasized the word “trust”, making Qi Chen feel a bit guilty. It would seem that Sir Feng wasn’t too satisfied with these two people.
The prince gave Wei Qian and the other a meaningful look in front of Jun Huang and the following order, “The gentleman shall do whatever he wants. His words are just as if mine.”
“Many thanks for Your Highness’ favor.” Jun Huang casually mouthed a pleasantry.
“It is I who should give thanks. May your affairs be fruitful soon.” How would Jun Huang not understand the meaning in Qi Chen’s eyes?
She immediately spread out her hands. “Your Highness, we cannot be overly hasty in this matter. The emperor is has only just reached middle age, and you cannot wish him any ill. After all, the crown prince has only been grounded. All else remains unchanged.”
“The crown prince? And what right does he have to be that? He’s not born of the empress, nor does he have virtue or wisdom. He sits so comfortably in that position all these years just because he was born earlier.”
How could Jun Huang not understand how much anger Qi Chen’s heart held? He likely resented the timing of his birth with every fiber of his being. A mere year was the difference that kept him from the throne. She too had grown up in the imperial harem. She had heard and seen too many of these matters.
“Indeed! And the crown prince’s lack of redeeming qualities is the sharp blade in Your Highness’ hand. After all, it makes perfect logical sense to make the eldest son the heir if he hasn’t committed any wrongs.” Jun Huang carefully tasted the tea in her hands. She purposefully chose her words to seem a bit provocative.
“However, apparently the crown prince itches all over at the moment. He’s reduced himself to a sorry state indeed with all the scratching he’s done. Although I haven’t seen him, it’s a darned good feeling to know he’s suffering. This counts as karma for him harming you.”
Jun Huang only smiled leisurely when she heard Qi Chen mention that. She didn’t feel any glee at all. “Thank you for keeping the matter on your mind, Your Highness. I just wonder which benefactor bestowed this condition onto the crown prince.”
Only when Jun Huang pointed it out did Qi Chen suddenly realize that this condition hadn’t spontaneously appeared on Qi Yin. Someone in the shadows must be behind this. He suddenly looked at Jun Huang, traces of alarm in his eyes. “Do you mean to say that another hand is also moving against the crown prince?”
Jun Huang nodded lightly and looked at Qi Chen with great conviction. The coolly composed look on her face made Qi Chen feel like she was feeling happy for him. “That’s precisely what I mean, but doesn’t Your Highness think this is a good thing? The crown prince is a fat piece of meat, and someone is already coming to split it with Your Highness. It looks like more than one person wants the dragon seat.” According to Jun Huang’s speculations, the crown prince being grounded was akin to many pushing down a wall. Even if Qi Chen didn’t make a move against Qi Yin, someone else would just as well.
“This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Doesn’t that mean less effort for me if someone else also puts in work to pull down the crown prince?” Last time’s matter had been the first time that Qi Chen had done anything along those lines, and he still felt it’d been quite risky. It’d be much easier if he just fought for the position after someone else took down Qi Yin.
“Your Highness mustn’t think this way. No one would be willing to see all their efforts end up benefiting someone else.” Jun Huang shook her head as she disagreed with Qi Chen. “Your Highness is wise, but so are others. You must do what you have to do, and needs so to know who wants to compete with Your Highness.”
Her words opened Qi Chen’s eyes. He stared at her for a second before nodding . “Brother Feng speaks truly.”
He left shortly afterwards, but Jun Huang remained in her seat, musing. She had to use his people if she wanted to make it into the prince’s inner circle. But now that she was in the Prince Chen Manor and his people were by her side, how would she slip away to meet with Qi Yun? She couldn’t just keep Qi Chen’s people by her side. She’d have to place some of her own as well.
“Sir Feng, it’s time to change the dressing on your wound.” A maid walked in. Jun Huang nodded and allowed her to tend to the wound.