Chapter 147: Ambition
Ji Bo knew that the third prince would be hesitant. He didn’t push him to make a decision now. Instead, Ji Bo continued to drink his tea, glancing at the third prince every once in a while.
The third prince seemed to be deep in thoughts, but he couldn’t look more ridiculous doing so. He wasn’t made to be a leader. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how ambitious he was, he was no match to Jun Huang and Ji Bo.
After the time for a pot of tea to brew, The third prince said, “The gentleman must have a good reason for what you said, but I’m not sure how I should talk to Royal Father about this. May the gentleman tell me how I can achieve my goal without appearing to be weak?”
“Of course.” Ji Bo curved his lips and told the third prince the steps he should take. He was able to convince the third prince.
The next day, the third prince arrived at the palace early in the morning. He happened to run into Qi Chen outside the emperor’s room. He paused before entering the door. He greeted the emperor respectfully. When he straightened up, Qi Chen was staring at him.
“Didn’t expect second brother to be here already,” the third prince said casually. “This brother thought that I’ve come early.”
Qi Chen gave him a cold look and scoffed. “What has third brother come this early for, I wonder.”
“I’m here to propose a solution to Royal Father,” said the third prince. He turned to the emperor and told him the solution Ji Bo had come up with.
With nervousness in his eyes, the third prince snuck glances at the emperor, worried that the emperor would be unhappy.
The emperor thought that the third prince’s proposal was a good one. As Ji Bo had predicted, the emperor visibly brightened and asked the third prince which official should be sent out to deal with the issue. The third prince gave the name of an official who didn’t hold a high rank, but was an expert in the field. The emperor approved of his suggestion.
Qi Chen didn’t expect an incompetent man like the third prince to be able to propose such intricate plan. He called out for his brother when they were on the stairs leading out of the palace. The third prince stopped in his track. On his face was a grin he had not been able to cover ever since he received the emperor’s praises.
“Third brother has been hiding who you really are,” Qi Chen sneered. “All these years, I’ve thought that you are like the koi fish in the pond - of a noble bloodline, but useless. It turns out third brother has an ambition.”
The third prince looked at Qi Chen with a sarcastic smile. “That’s ironic coming from second brother. Brother Qi Yin must have thought the same about you.”
Satisfied with the dark look he had put on Qi Chen’s face, the third prince cupped his hands and turned to leave. He had said his piece.
Qi Chen tightened his jaw and clenched his fists, eyes shooting daggers at the third prince’s back. Rage boiled inside his chest, but he couldn’t let it show. He whipped his sleeves and stomped away.
Qi Yun had witnessed everything from the hallway. His distant expression betrayed none of his thoughts. He thought back to what Jun Huang had told him: It would be wise of him to stay out of the conflicts and watch the two beasts fight. He would be reaping the benefits later.
“The emperor can see you now, Your Highness,” said the eunuch who had been serving at the emperor’s side. “You may go in.”
To serve the emperor personally, one needed to be able to read the emperor’s mood. The eunuch could tell that even though Qi Yun appeared to be the least favored royal prince, in reality the emperor liked Qi Yun a lot more than his other sons.
Qi Yun nodded at him. He fixed his robe before entering the room.
The emperor looked up at Qi Yun and greeted him with a smile. Qi Yun walked up to the emperor and bowed at him in greeting.
“Royal Father looks refreshed today,” Qi Yun said. He reached out and started massaging the emperor’s back with practiced ease. “Did something good happen?”
“Your third brother may not have achieved anything in his life, but he does know a few things about managing a country,” said the emperor. He relaxed and let Qi Yun sooth out the knots in his muscles. “The issue with the canal has troubled me for a while. Your third brother has surprised me with a solution.”
“That’s good,” Qi Yun said with his eyes lowered. “Second brother and third brother can both help lessen the burden on Royal Father’s shoulders. This son, on the contrary, has not been able to help Royal Father in any way.”
The emperor sighed and patted the back of his hand. “While they have offered me their assistance, they have also caused me quite a lot of troubles. How can I not know what their real motives are? They are simply seeking their own interest. I can see that you are the only one I don’t need to worry about.”
Without a word, Qi Yun continued to massage the emperor’s back. The emperor closed his eyes. He had been losing sleep and eating less recently over the issue with the canal. With a concrete plan to follow, he was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion.
Once the emperor had fallen asleep, Qi Yun stopped his massage. He sighed at the emperor’s tired and old face and retrieve a yellow robe to cover the emperor with. He walked out of the room.
The eunuch came up to him. Qi Yun gestured at the eunuch to stay quiet.
“Royal Father has been tired lately. He’s asleep now. You should give him some peace and quiet. Later, remember to bring him a bowl of lotus seed soup. He said he’s been craving it.”
Qi Yun’s order was detailed. On his face was the expression of a son caring for his father.
The eunuch sighed. Among the royal princes, Qi Yun was the most easygoing one. He didn’t fight for anything with the other princes, but simply did whatever he had to do. “The emperor is missing Your Highness’s mother. When the consort was still alive, the emperor’s favorite food was the lotus seed soup the consort made. Since her death, the emperor has not had any lotus seed soup. He said that he’s worried he would be reminded of her.”
A dark look flashed through Qi Yun’s face. He put on a smile in lieu of a response. After bidding the eunuch farewell, he left for Nan Xun’s manor.
He happened to run into Jun Huang in the garden. She was talking to a group of servants. Once he got closer, he heard that she was making arrangements for Wan’er’s wedding.
Jun Huang turned around after finishing talking to the servants and saw Qi Yun standing in the hallway. With a smile, she approached Qi Yun and bowed at him. “Why has Your Highness come?”
Qi Yun told Jun Huang about the conversation between Qi Chen and the third prince. Jun Huang nodded in acknowledgement with her brows furrowed and took a seat at the stone table in the garden. Qi Yun followed her closely.
“Doesn’t gentleman Feng think that Mister Ji Bo has been helping third brother rise in power? With both second brother and third brother in the court, our chance of winning becomes even slimmer.” Qi Yun’s tone was worried. He added, “Because of what the gentleman suggested, I have been doing nothing but visiting Royal Father recently, but… is this really enough?”
“Of course not,” said Jun Huang.
“Then why would the gentleman tell me to stay idle?” Qi Yun was starting to panic. He had thought that Jun Huang had future plans for him! She wasn’t going to tell him to not get involved in the court from now on, was she?
Seeing his worried look, Jun Huang let out a quiet laugh and poured Qi Yun a cup of tea. She took a sip from her own cup. “Your Highness is staying low and making the emperor think that you are different from all the other royal princes. You’re showing the emperor that you are attentive to the emperor not for the throne but for the emperor himself. The rest will fall into place naturally. Your Highness only has to wait to reap the benefits.”
“Does the gentleman care to explain?” Qi Yun looked at Jun Huang with a frown. For a moment, he wondered if Jun Huang had only been humoring him.
Jun Huang smiled and met his gaze. “Your Highness only has to show the emperor that you care about him and earn his trust. You’ll know what to do later.”
Qi Yun was a little upset with the way Jun Huang talked circles around the real issue, but he knew that he shouldn’t doubt the people he had decided to trust. He nodded.
Jun Huang didn’t miss the flash of frustration in Qi Yun’s eyes. She knew that if she didn’t give him a good explanation, Qi Yun would be upset even though he wouldn’t demand an answer from her. She said after a pause, “This is only the beginning of the feud between Qi Chen and the third prince. We need to let Qi Chen see how big a threat the third prince is to him. Only then will Qi Chen put aside his suspicion for Your Highness.”
“The third prince looks as harmless as a domesticated pet, but that’s only a pretense. He’s ambitious. He will take action soon. It’s better that we wait and let these two rabid dogs bite each other’s throat off. Even better if they end up destroying each other.”
Qi Yun felt as if a fog had lifted in his mind. He nodded in understanding.
Their conversation was interrupted when a servant came to the garden. He said that Qi Chen had asked for Jun Huang’s presence.
It was natural for Qi Chen to want to talk to Jun Huang. He had just suffered a defeat against the third prince after all. Jun Huang told the servant that she would leave soon.
Seeing that Jun Huang was going out, Qi Yun asked, “How does the gentleman plan to help second brother fight back?”
Jun Huang tilted her head and quirked her lips. “I’ll propose a way to cut off the third prince’s escape route, of course.”
She walked outside and followed Qi Chen’s people back to the crown prince’s manor.
Qi Chen was waiting for Jun Huang under a tree. From afar, Jun Huang could feel the dark mood radiating from Qi Chen. She waved her fan as she walked up to him.
“Gentleman Feng is sure in a good mood,” Qi Chen scoffed. “I’m troubled and frustrated, and yet you look as if you don’t have a care in the world.”
“Then does Your Highness have a solution already?” Jun Huang retorted.
Qi Chen fell silent. He knew he had been unnecessarily harsh. He sighed and softened his tone. “Brother Feng must know about what happened in the court already. Originally Royal Father was going to let me take the job. It’s frustrating that third brother intervened.”
Jun Huang closed her fan and looked at Qi Chen inquisitively. “What does Your Highness need me to do?”
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