Chapter 203: The Three Unfilial Things
After leaving Nan Guyue’s building, Qi Chen slowed down his pace. He turned around, his mind filled with a mess of thoughts. His personal guard looked at him inquisitively and asked, “What’s wrong, your Highness? Are you feeling unwell?”
Qi Chen shook his head. With a sigh, he looked up at the full moon. “Have a few men watch the princess. Tell me if anything unusual happens.”
The guard wondered why Qi Chen would make such an order, but he didn’t dare to question Qi Chen. He nodded and left to make the arrangements.
Nan Guyue was not the only one Qi Chen was watching. Jun Huang was under his close scrutiny as well. Whenever she left Nan Xun’s manor, there would be Qi Chen’s men following her around. She had planned to return to her place, but under the circumstances it didn’t seem wise. She could only stay at Nan Xun’s.
Nan Xun had noticed Jun Huang’s dark mood. He laughed quietly as he approached her. “Are you still troubled?”
Jun Huang looked up at him and nodded. “I am. Qi Chen’s action shows that he’s again suspicious of me. Last time, he had me arrested. His approach was forceful, but I could take the physical abuse. At least I didn’t have to hide away all the time. Now, though, my freedom is stripped away.”
“What are his excuses this time?” asked Nan Xun.
Jun Huang scoffed. She downed her room-temperature tea and said, “He said that I haven’t fully recovered, so he sent a few men to watch me in case something went wrong.”
“That can’t be helped,” Nan Xun said with a smile. “Maybe he really is worried about you.”
Jun Huang couldn’t manage a smile. She didn’t tell Nan Xun about Nan Guyue’s sudden change of attitude. It wasn’t anything serious. Telling him wouldn't help. It would only weigh him down.
Jun Huang knew as soon as Qi Chen asked her to talk to Nan Guyue that he was testing her. She had no choice but to go to Nan Guyue. What she didn’t expect was how quickly Nan Guyue had a change of heart.
Jun Huang wondered what Nan Guyue had said to make Qi Chen suspicious, but not convinced of her guilt.
Well, she wasn’t guilty in the way Qi Chen suspected. It was all a baseless lie.
Jun Huang sighed. She hadn’t seen Qi Yun for a while. She had almost forgotten about him when she was busy dealing with Qi Chen.
“By the way, can you bring Qi Yun here?” Jun Huang asked, looking up at Nan Xun.
Nan Xun didn’t make light of Jun Huang’s caution. He nodded. “Of course. It’s too risky during daytime, though. Qi Chen’s men might notice. How about I bring him here tonight? We’ll talk then.”
Jun Huang nodded. They must be calm in face of moments such as this. Plots and schemes would have to wait.
Silence descended on Prince Chen Manor after night fell. Jun Huang waited in her room for Nan Xun to return. During the time, she made a mental catalogue of her observations on the current situation.
Someone knocked on the door. Jun Huang knew it was Nan Xun and Qi Yun. She hurriedly got the door and let them in.
“I was looking for Gentleman Feng at Wan’er’s wedding,” Qi Yun said with a smile as he walked into the room. “I asked brother Nan and he told me that he and gentleman Feng had left early that day. No wonder I didn’t see you.”
Jun Huang threw Nan Xun a glance and smiled at Qi Yun awkwardly. She poured each of them a cup of tea. “There is something we should have talked about earlier. Qi Chen has become suspicious of me and I didn’t have a chance to talk to you until now. Since you’re here now, let us discuss the issue.”
Qi Yun and Nan Xun nodded and waited for her to continue. Jun Huang hummed. “We don’t know how many factions are supporting Qi Chen, but there’s one thing that’s certain - there are two people offering him open support. The one that provided him the funds has been dealt with. That’s why Qi Chen turned to illegal salt vending to earn money. The other one is Sir Shangguan. He is a formidable foe that cannot be eliminated easily.”
Qi Yun nodded. “You’re right. Sir Shangguan is one of the officials who has been in the court since the beginning of Royal Father’s reign. He’s made great contribution to Northern Qi. Royal Father would not take out someone who helped him establish his power. We, however, cannot afford to let Sir Shangguan run free.”
“I agree,” said Jun Huang. “Half of the courtiers who support Qi Chen are recruited by Sir Shangguan. I can’t say for sure why Sir Shangguan did so, but I can speculate. Qi Chen is ambitious. If he succeeds in gaining the throne, he will put Sir Shangguan on an important position, such as an honored lord. Some people are willing to throw everything away for fame and fortune. We must take him out to eliminate all possible risks.”
The candlelight covered her face with a warm glow. Nan Xun watched her quietly, listening to the two of them discuss how Sir Shangguan should be eliminated without reaching a conclusion. After all, Sir Shangguan was not an easy prey.
After an hour they still hadn’t figured out a plan. Jun Huang frowned deeply. Qi Yun too was at a loss of where to start.
Qi Yun sighed. “Sir Shangguan is too good at keeping up an honest front. Otherwise we wouldn’t be so lost.”
“Everyone makes mistakes, let alone a corrupt official like him,” Jun Huang said. Her tone smoothed away the concerns in Qi Yun’s heart. “He may have covered his tracks well, but there must be something to be found. We have to keep a level head.”
Their conversation continued. It wasn’t until much later that Qi Yun took his leave.
Meanwhile, in Shangguan Manor, troubled water lurked under the serene surface. The tension was thick enough to drown someone.
When Sir Shangguan returned home, the servants told him that Shangguan Yue had been staying in her bedroom for the whole day. She had not eaten anything. The servants tried everything they could think of, worried that she would starve herself, but they were unsuccessful.
Sir Shangguan immediately rushed to her room. He had thought that Shangguan Yue and Nan Xun’s marriage was a done deal, but somehow Nan Xun was able to get out of it. The emperor used the opportunity to achieve his own goal and let Nan Xun’s disobedience slide.
Nan Xun may be happy with that, but his daughter certainly wasn’t. After she heard that Nan Xun had gone against the emperor to turn down the marriage, she had been keeping herself in her room. When he was at home, he would be able to convince her to eat something. When he was not, however, she would refuse to eat.
His daughter was born when he was in the later stage of his life. He cherished and protected her like she was the finest china in the world. Her daughter had never been hurt like this. It pained him to see her in this state. As a result, he grew more and more resentful of Nan Xun.
When Sir Shangguan reached Shangguan Yue’s room, he heard the faint sound of her playing zither. He was reminded of her performance at the Banquet of a Hundred Families a few years back. At the time, the crude Nan Xun had unexpectedly offered Shangguan Yue praises for her performance. Ever since that day, Shangguan Yue had been practicing zither regularly. She imagined that one day, she would become Nan Xun’s wife - his other half. They would be the perfect love story everyone talked of in decades to come.
Nan Xun, however, was unwilling to stay for her. He wasn’t even willing to spare her a glance.
Sir Shangguan stood outside for a long time. In the end, he knocked and entered the room. His beautiful daughter was sitting at the table, her face pale. The zither before her had a broken string. There was a bleeding cut on her fingertip.
He startled and rushed to her. A servant handed him a handkerchief. He used it to bandage Shangguan Yue’s up. He sighed. “There are so many young men in Northern Qi, my dear. Isn’t there anyone who’s better than Nan Xun, who’s dense like a wood plank when it comes to romance? Nan Xun is now - ”
“I don’t want to hear it, dad,” Shangguan Yue cut in. “I will not marry anyone but Nan Xun.”
Sir Shangguan could only nod. “Alright, alright. You will not marry anyone else.” He sighed. “I will go to the palace to talk to the emperor again.”
“Really?” Shangguan Yue’s head jerked up. She was worried that she had heard it wrong. Her eyes lit up like a pair of luminous pearls under the candlelight.
After spending some more time reassuring Shangguan Yue, Sir Shangguan left the manor for the palace. It was getting dark. He wasn’t sure if the emperor was still busy. He nervously requested for an audience, and he was told that the emperor was reading in his study. He sighed and followed a eunuch to the study.
Sir Shangguan forced himself to put on a smile. The emperor was sitting on a chair with his brows furrowed. Sir Shangguan bowed to him before saying quitely, “This humble official has something to report, Your Majesty.”
The emperor threw him a cool glance without a word. Sir Shangguan didn’t dare to say anything. He stayed on the floor and waited for the emperor to speak.
Time passed. After the time for a pot of tea to brew, the emperor put down the book in his hand and said, “What is it?”
“This official is here for the marriage between Prince Nan Xun and my daughter.” Sir Shangguan lowered his head further. He didn’t want to anger the emperor.
As expected, the emperor’s face fell. “Are we not over that already? What else are you going to say?”
“The emperor should reconsider.” Sir Shangguan came prepared. He looked up at the emperor with a calm face and continued, “It’s said that there are three unfilial things: First is to disobey one’s parents. One should not talk of his parents’ mistakes, let alone when he himself is at fault. Prince Nan Xun had lost his parents at a young age. That’s all the more reasons that he should listen to the emperor. Your are like his parent. He should not disobey you. The second failure is to not support your parents with your stipend. A member of the royal family, especially, must keep this in mind. Even though Prince Nan Xun has no parent to support, he should share the emperor’s burden. The third failure is to not produce an heir. It’s said that having no descendents is the worst of the sins. Isn’t that what Prince Nan Xun is doing?”
Previous Chapter Next Chapter