Chapter 185: Circumstances

Chapter 185: Circumstances

“I don’t think it’s as simple as it appears to be,” Nan Xun interjected suddenly. Jun Huang turned to him in question.

Nan Xun sorted his thoughts out before saying, “I think the emperor may have been involved this time. Qi Chen and the third prince alone would not be able to cause such a big impact. Without the emperor’s interference, those officials would not have been caught so easily.”

Jun Huang made a sound of assent. “You mean the emperor is key to the success of the investigation.”

“Yes,” Nan Xun said. “Think about it. The emperor has been trying to root out the corrupt officials in the court. He has a clearer picture of the situation than many others. Cleaning house now may not be a bad idea for him. He can take this opportunity to identify those who have not done anything even though they receive stipend from the state. He may also be trying to find replacements for those positions to further his own goal.”

Jun Huang tensed up. She didn’t expect something like this to happen. After spending some more time talking to Nan Xun about the situation in Northern Qi, she couldn’t bear to wait any longer. She shot to her feet. Nan Xun turned to her with a calm expression.

“The last investigation is a done deal. We didn’t know there were people from Eastern Wu hidden in the palace at the time. Now Qi Chen has foolishly disregarded everything for his own personal gain. If nothing is done, the foundation of the country will be damaged. I must go to the crown prince’s manor at once and stop him.”

Jun Huang turned to leave. Nan Xun called out for her when she reached the door.

She turned around and waited for him to speak.

“What is done is done. It’s not going to be easy for you to turn things around. We might as well cross the bridge when we come to it.”

Nan Xun was worried about Jun Huang’s health. He didn’t want her to exhaust herself by getting involved in the feud between the two princes.

After a pause, Jun Huang looked up at the grey sky outside and put on a smile. “We don’t know how difficult it’s going to be. As a strategist I should be doing my best. Even if I won’t be able to help Northern Qi unite the world, I’ll still devote myself to this goal without regret.”

She walked away without any hesitation.

Nan Xun couldn’t help the rueful laugh escaping his mouth. He sighed at Jun Huang’s retreating form before leaving for the palace.

“Your Highness, gentleman Feng has returned,” said the housekeeper. When he walked into the study, Qi Chen was playing with his pet bird. “He’s waiting right outside.”

Qi Chen’s head jerked up in surprise. He didn’t expect Jun Huang to return so quickly. He straightened up and put the birdcage aside. “Quick! Tell brother Feng to come in!”

“Understood.” The housekeeper walked out of the study. Not long after, Jun Huang entered the room. She cupped her hands at Qi Chen with an aloof expression.

It had been a while since the last time Qi Chen saw Jun Huang. Her calm composure still surprised him even after all this time. He welcomed her with a smile and reached out to help her up.

“Brother Feng has been away for about a month, and yet your grace is still unparalleled,” he said with a smile. “I felt the hole you left while you were away.”

“Your Highness is too kind,” Jun Huang said calmly. Her perfect mask never broke.

Qi Chen invited Jun Huang to take a seat. He considered her expression and cleared his throat. “During the time brother Feng is away… have you gotten what you wanted?”

Jun Huang looked up at Qi Chen in confusion. It took a moment for her to realize what he was referring to. The rumor about her and Nan Xun had become ubiquitous. Qi Chen must know that Nan Xun had been staying in Yun Town with her as well.

She pulled her lips into an awkward smile and waved a hand in denial, but her denial seemed more like a confirmation to Qi Chen. He laughed openly and patted her on the shoulder. “Brother Feng doesn’t have to be coy with me. I won’t mock you no matter what. Love cannot be predicted nor explained. I’m surprised, though, that brother Nan is brother Feng’s type.”

Jun Huang didn’t think she would be able to convince Qi Chen otherwise, so she shut her mouth and let out a quiet laugh, her expression relaxed and her eyes downcast.

Qi Chen didn’t spend too much time on Jun Huang’s personal affairs. He had felt Jun Huang’s absence keenly. Now that she was back, he must take the opportunity to ask for her opinions. There were many things he would like to discuss with her.

“Brother Feng must have come for an important reason,” Qi Chen said. “I happen to have things to discuss with brother Feng as well.”

“If that’s the case,” Jun Huang said after a pause, “May Your Highness tell me what you want to talk about first?”

Qi Chen didn’t try to argue. “During your absence, the conflict between me and third brother has exacerbated. I’ve always prided myself for having gentleman Feng on my side. These days, though, I’ve come to realize that there is someone of great wisdom assisting third brother as well.”

“How so?” Jun Huang’s heart skipped a beat, but she forced herself to remain calm. Her emotions did now show in her tone.

Qi Chen thought for a moment. “I know how he was before. It doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly become so impressive even if he had been conserving his strength. Besides, his actions are not ones of an ordinary man. Without you here, I’ve suffered a great many defeats. I hope brother Feng will help me come up with a good plan to fight back.”

“What if this gentleman asks Your Highness to back off?”

Qi Chen could not control his temper. Had Jun Huang not heard what he just said? “How can I possibly back off at such critical juncture? Am I going to just ignore the loss I’ve suffered? Am I going to just let him win?”

Jun Huang was unfazed by his demanding tone. She leveled Qi Chen with a cold stare. “Your Highness may have suffered some loss, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Does Your Highness know how many people have been rooted out because of your conflict with the third prince? Is the current situation not clear enough for you? Your Highness is the crown prince. The third prince should be the one to be worried. Why must Your Highness dwell on unnecessary concerns? There’s a reason for this gentleman to ask Your Highness to back off. Namely, the men from Eastern Wu that remain hidden in Northern Qi. They may be hiding right at the emperor’s side. If the investigation damages the foundation of the country, what does Your Highness stand to gain even if you fulfill your dream and become the emperor?”

Jun Huang’s voice wasn’t loud, but she had presented Qi Chen the cold hard truths, forcing him to look at the big picture. Qi Chen was already half convinced. He stared at Jun Huang, trying to determine the truthfulness of her words.

Cold sweat broke out of his forehead once he came to see the implications of his actions. His breathing became so faint it was barely there. “Brother Feng is right. I’ve let third brother anger me to the point of losing my sight. This infighting between us cannot go on.”

“What does brother Feng propose we do next?”

Jun Huang went over the different ways Northern Qi’s fate can go before answering, “We have to be patient. The emperor may have turned a blind eye to the fight between Your Highness and the third prince, but it’s possible he’s trying to see which of you is going to realize your mistakes first. We should first find those men from Eastern Wu. The rest we’ll deal with later.”

“Are we going to just let third brother off the hook? Brother Feng may not know what he’s done lately. He cannot be forgiven. I may have used the opportunity to take out some of his men in the court, but he in turns has taken my right hand men away from me.”

The more Qi Chen spoke, the angrier he got. He could not forgive his brother.

Jun Huang twisted her lips with her eyes fixed on Qi Chen. “What does Your Highness plan to do? Are you going to send Northern Qi into chaos for petty revenge? What if Eastern Wu attacks Northern Qi suddenly? Will Northern Qi be able to send out an army? Will Northern Qi be able to provide its soldiers with food and supplies? Has Your Highness thought about all these?”

Jun Huang’s tone was calm. One had to listen carefully to hear the underlying emotions in her words. That was exactly what made Qi Chen freeze. The questions Jun Huang raised were not new to him, but he had been blinded by his rage.

He fell silent. What had he been doing? How could he forget about his goal due to his pursuit of instant gratification?

Jun Huang knew that he had taken her advice to mind. She let out a deep breath and commiserated, “This gentleman knows how Your Highness feels, but the circumstances do not allow us to be reckless. After Northern Qi has successfully deterred Eastern Wu, Your Highness can do whatever you want. This gentleman will also help Your Highness get back at the third prince. You will have your revenge.”

Jun Huang’s tone was earnest. The trace of frustration in Qi Chen’s heart disappeared. He nodded. “Brother Feng is right. I’ve been too stubborn. If I’ve said anything inappropriate, I hope brother Feng can forgive me.”

They grew quiet. During Jun Huang’s absence, Qi Chen had accumulated a long list of affairs he would like to consult with Jun Huang on. He brought them up seeing that Jun Huang was in a good condition. He would like an in-depth discussion with her and asked her for advice on issues he did not understand fully. He wanted to be able to give the emperor a good answer should the emperor raise the issue during the morning meeting tomorrow.

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