Chapter 190: Schadenfreude
“Oh?” Qi Chen smiled. “Do tell.”
“It’s nothing too interesting,” said Xiaoyun. “I heard someone said that the princess and gentleman Feng are close. Closer than a strategist and his master’s wife should be. It’s difficult to believe that there’s nothing between them. People also said that the father to the princess’s child is actually… gentleman Feng.”
“Nonsense!” Qi Chen shot up to his feet, pushing Xiaoyun away. Xiaoyun staggered and barely kept herself upright by holding onto the desk. She looked at Qi Chen with a frown.
What was done was done. She had nothing to lose now. She took a deep breath and said, “I know it seems unlikely, but it’s not completely without basis. If the princess and gentleman Feng are innocent, why would so many people say that they are having an affair? Your Highness has a good number of concubines in this manor, why is the princess the only one who got pregnant? And she got pregnant right after entering this manor. Has Your Highness not suspected anything?”
Qi Chen didn’t know how to respond. Xiaoyun’s questions rang in his head. As a member of the royal family, he was born to be mistrusting. He didn’t want to doubt Jun Huang, but the signs were there. He couldn’t ignore them.
Besides, Nan Guyue had such a pleasant conversation with Jun Huang earlier. Jun Huang even complimented her. Everything pointed to a reality he didn’t want to believe in.
His silence was a clear indication of his doubt. Xiaoyun smiled and leaned into Qi Chen. “I’m just speculating,” she murmured. “Your Highness can have someone conduct an investigation. It’s getting late. May I serve you tonight?”
She reached out to untie Qi Chen’s waistband. Qi Chen threw her a cold glare. He didn't’ want to stay here with this heavy weight on his chest. He pushed her hand away and stormed out of the room, leaving Xiaoyun pondering what his reaction meant.
Qi Chen didn’t want to believe in the rumor, but the seed of doubt had been planted. In the end, he ordered one of his men to look into it in secret. The investigation happened without Jun Huang noticing.
A few days later, the man returned with some news. Nan Guyue had secretly met with Jun Huang twice, and the meeting lasted for longer than they should! Qi Chen trusted Jun Huang, but what he found told him otherwise. He could not stand the possibility that Jun Huang was having an affair with his wife.
No man could tolerate the fact that his wife was pregnant with another man’s child. Qi Chen definitely could not stomach such betrayal. Coming from Jun Huang, especially, the betrayal hit him even harder. He ordered his men to arrest Jun Huang and keep her in the water prison.
Jun Huang thought that Qi Chen had realized she was a spy. Panic broke the calm mask she usually wore. Her cold sweat seeped into her clothes.
She was held in place at the center of the water prison by iron chains. The valve was shut when the freezing water reached her waist. The guards had not given her a chance to brace for the cold. She tightened her jaw as the chill seeped into her body and reached her bones.
When Qi Chen entered, Jun Huang’s face was pale, and her clothes drenched. Her untied hair plastered over her back. There were droplets of water all over her face. She looked pitiful.
Qi Chen had thought that his anger would allow no room for sentimental thoughts, and yet he felt pity for Jun Huang. He shifted his focus to the affair between Jun Huang and Nan Guyue and let his anger burn even hotter.
“I trusted you, Feng Baiyu,” Qi Chen said through clenched teeth, his eyes bloodshot. “This is how you repay that trust? Have you no shame?”
Jun Huang ground her teeth together and looked at Qi Chen defiantly. She knew that she must not give Qi Chen any information, especially not about Qi Yun. She must help Qi Yun become the emperor. She would not talk even if Qi Chen threatened her with death.
Her silence destroyed the last of Qi Chen’s patience. Did she not feel guilty at all?! He huffed and pulled the lever on the wall. More water rushed into the cell, drowning her from head to toe.
Jun Huang was caught off guard and a mouthful of cold water rushed into her mouth. She hurriedly hold her breath and tried her best to maintain her consciousness. Her face was horrifyingly pale.
After about the time for a pot of tea to brew, the water drained out of the cell. Jun Huang was finally able to breathe again. Qi Chen leveled her with a cold stare. “Do you admit your guilt?”
Jun Huang sucked in a breath. Air rushed through her trachea, sending her into a coughing fit. Her face turned red as sweat dropped down her forehead. “This gentleman… this gentleman does not know what Your Highness is talking about.”
“You refuse to talk even now? Do you think I will go easy on you? Let me tell you, Feng Baiyu, I have plenty of other strategists apart from you!”
Qi Chen pulled the lever and soon she was immersed in cold water again.
The same torture went on and on. Jun Huang finally gave up on struggling. She had lost her strength. Even when she was completely underwater, she let the water rush into her mouth and nose. She choked and lost consciousness from the lack of oxygen.
When she woke up, she was no longer inside the water prison. Instead, she was tied to a wooden pole. Both her arms were restrained. Her clothes stuck to her body uncomfortably. She grimaced.
Qi Chen walked up to her with a whip in his hand. It was made of a special kind of leather. The hit would be more painful than a regular whip. Without a word, Qi Chen cracked the whip at her.
He had used a lot of force. The impact left a long gash on her skin. Blood gushed out of the wound and dripped to the floor.
Jun Huang bit down a pained cry. Qi Chen didn’t give her much time to recover before making the next strike. Again and again the whip left long bleeding cuts on her body. Qi Chen was blinded by his rage. He could not stop himself from attacking. Jun Huang ground her teeth and forced herself to stay silent. After a couple dozens of hits, Qi Chen finally stopped out of exhaustion. He stared at Jun Huang and asked her the same questions.
Jun Huang had lost her ability to think clearly. She stared at the ground with unfocused eyes, which Qi Chen took as an admission to her guilt. He flew into rage and started whipping her again.
He stopped before Jun Huang could pass out, eyes shooting daggers at her prone form. Jun Huang could not even lift her head. She was in so much pain her brain became muddy. It was all she could do to not scream.
Furious, Qi Chen was unwilling to spare her another glance. He had to do something to quell this ire in his heart. He waved a guard over and said, “Lock him back into the water prison… and put salt in the water.”
He stormed away. The guard didn’t dare to hesitate.
Silently, he worried for Jun Huang’s life. She might not make it out alive this time. He felt sorry for her. A few days ago Jun Huang was still the strategist Qi Chen valued the most. Now she was locked in prison. Life was unpredictable indeed. In an instant, one could fall down a cliff to his death.
The guard untied Jun Huang from the pole. Jun Huang didn’t have the strength to stay upright. Without the support, she fell to the floor. The guard almost didn’t catch her.
Jun Huang’s usual grace had disappeared completely. She was weak and fragile and so, so breakable. The guard clicked his tongue. “A few days ago, someone told me that he envied gentleman Feng for his grace and talent, saying that he would be the official of our generation. Who knows that gentleman Feng would end up in this prison? His health doesn’t seem all that good. He may die in this place.”
“Shut it!” another guard walked up to him and said. “If the prince hears you, you’ll be punished.” He helped carry Jun Huang to the water prison and entered it first. The chill climbed up his legs and made him shudder. He cursed under his breath and told his collegue to lower Jun Huang down. He tied her arms with the iron chains before diving underwater to tied her ankles.
He only relaxed when he surfaced and climbed out of the water. His teeth started clattering because of the cold.
“This water is freezing. Staying in the water for a night is enough to cause lasting damage. This will not be easy for Gentleman Feng.”
He sighed and tasted some of the salt. The taste assaulted his senses and made his tongue go numb.
Before he could pour the bucket of salt into the water, the more sympathetic guard caught his arm. The guard looked around and said in a low voice, “The truth is not clear yet. What if we put too much salt in the water, and gentleman Feng dies because of it, but the prince later finds out that he is innocent? The prince is going to blame us. We don’t have a beef with him. There’s no need for us to follow the instruction completely.”
“What? Are you going to not put salt in the water?”
Previous Chapter Next Chapter