Chapter 206: Mission
When Jun Huang went back to Nan Xun’s manor, Nan Xun was waiting for her. He had been busy training his soldiers these days. The writing was on the wall that a war would break out between Eastern Wu and Northern Qi. He had to prepare the army for the looming threat. He and Jun Huang rarely had time to even talk.
“You’re finally back,” Nan Xun said without preamble. “There’s something I have to tell you.”
Jun Huang looked around for any unwanted eyes before following Nan Xun to the study. “What is it?”
Nan Xun didn’t keep anything from her. “I’ve been busy these days, but what you’re going to do is difficult. I wanted to help, so I had some of my men investigate the spies as well. Today, they came back with some news. Those men from Eastern Wu is staying in a brothel next to the biggest brothel in the imperial city. The two are almost equal in their popularity.”
Jun Huang was surprised. She always considered Nan Xun to be a lone wolf in the imperial city, but it turned out that he had his influence still. He had provided her with important information. That got her thinking. “Were you the one who sent the evidence against Sir Shangguan to the third prince?”
Nan Xun pulled his lips into a smile and patted Jun Huang’s shoulder. “Sir Shangguan is history. You don’t have to waste your time worrying about him. Focus on what’s at hand now. The rest you can ignore. Alright?”
Nan Xun didn’t want to go into details. Jun Huang nodded without a word. It was still early. Since Jun Huang knew already the exact location of the spies’ hideout, she had to go have a look before they left.
After bidding Nan Xun farewell, she went straight to Prince Chen Manor. Qi Chen had ordered the team he assigned to Jun Huang to stay in the manor. He didn’t want anyone to notice what they were going to do. It was also easier to keep an eye on everyone this way. Jun Huang had to go to the manor to talk to the team.
Qi Chen didn’t trust her completely. Some of the team members acted as informants for Qi Chen. On the surface, they were here to help Jun Huang, but Jun Huang knew better. She knew that Qi Chen was still suspicious of her.
The team members were surprised to see Jun Huang return. A man with tanned skin took a step forward and asked, “Is there anything else the gentleman would like to say?”
Jun Huang nodded and led them into a room. She told them about what Nan Xun had found. When asked, Jun Huang claimed to have discovered the clues on accident. She didn’t tell them that it was Nan Xun who gave her the information.
“That’s their operation base,” said a man. “We should go investigate now.”
Another man shook his head. That would be unwise. “It’s broad daylight. If we go near the brothel, we risk alerting them. Besides, even though the emperor favors the prince, he’s going to grow suspicious if he knew that the prince has command over a private army. Alerting the enemies is one thing. Making the emperor suspicious is far more serious a problem.”
Jun Huang silently praised the man for his sharp mind. Originally she was going to take them to the brothel now. She could kill two birds with one stone by doing that. She didn’t expect there to be a smart man in the team. She had underestimated them.
Jun Huang hummed. If she supported the man who wanted to investigate now, that might be used against her later on. “I find the brothel suspicious, but I can’t be sure it’s the place. It’d be unwise to take action now. We should depart at night.”
“The gentleman is right,” the young man who had been silently standing by the wall piped up. “What we should do now is to find out about Eastern Wu’s plan. We shouldn’t waste our time arguing. I’ll go talk to the others. We should go investigate tonight.”
Jun Huang nodded at the young man politely. She didn’t recognize the face. “I’ll go with you tonight,” she said after taking a deep breath. “You should take a rest to prepare for the mission.”
She walked away, leaving the men in the room staring among one another in shock.
They knew that this would be a dangerous mission. They thought Jun Huang would let them do the dirty work, but instead, Jun Huang was going with them. In their eyes, Jun Huang was a simple scholar. Perhaps she was only paying lip service. They would wait and see if she came to the brothel in evening.
They were surprised when Jun Huang showed up. Jun Huang, of course, noticed their reaction, but she didn’t comment on that. “The enemies we’re facing are not easy to deal with,” she said with a smile. “This time, we’ll focus on investigating. We don’t need everyone to go inside the brothel. The ones who do will disguise as regular customers. Does any of you have something to say?”
They shook their head, staring dumbly at Jun Huang. She was dressed in a turquoise robe with her hair held up with a white jade cap. She looked both graceful and carefree. The foldable fan she held was a perfect accessory to symbolize her status.
They had heard that there was a handsome gentleman in Qi Chen’s manor. Now they knew the praises were no exaggeration. Even a group of crude men like them were captivated.
Jun Huang turned a blind eye to their obvious stares. Whatever they thought of her appearance didn’t matter to her. “It’s getting late. Let’s go.”
She turned around. The men shared a look. Two of them followed Jun Huang into the brothel so that they could protect her if anything went wrong. The others waited outside. They would enter at the right time.
Women in cheap cosmetics swarmed up to her. Jun Huang had always disliked the aggressive smell of poor-quality rouge. She frowned.
The two men following her noticed her expression. One of them went up to stop the women from getting closer. “Go away. The gentleman is not going to set his eyes on people like you. Get going, or we’ll have to resort to force.”
The women widened their eyes. How could this man be so blunt? They had no choice but to watch Jun Huang leave, staring after her with desires in their eyes.
Jun Huang walked up to the procuress and put on a smile. “This gentleman is here for the leading courtesan, not regular women like them.”
The procuress noticed the way Jun Huang held herself. The robe she wore was exquisite as well. This was an important customer. The leading courtesan, however, had been reserved by a high-level official in the imperial city. The procuress debated over what she should do. “How unfortunate! The leading courtesan doesn’t take guests today.”
Jun Huang threw the procuress a brief glance. A shiver ran down the procuress’ spine.
Jun Huang turned around to leave. She wasn’t going to stir up troubles. The procuress reached out to stop her. A servile smile appeared on her face. “There’s this one girl - Qing’er. She’s a pretty one who knows how to please people. I’m sure the gentleman must be well-versed in music. Qin’er happened to be skilled at playing zither.”
Jun Huang wasn’t going to leave the brothel without finding anything. “If that’s the case, this gentleman would like to meet her.”
The procuress sighed in relief. She took Jun Huang and the others to a room on the second floor and sent for Qin’er.
Qin’er entered the room not long after. She was pretty. Her features were lively and her eyes were bright. The men following Jun Huang could not peel their eyes away from her. Jun Huang, on the other hand, had a feeling that something was wrong. If she had been a man, she would be entranced by Qin’er as well. She wasn’t, however, so she noticed only that Qin’er wasn’t so beautiful that she could transfix men to this level. Jun Huang was reminded of the fact that there was a tribe in Eastern Wu capable of casting charms.
Qin’er started to play the zither. Jun Huang remained calm and collected. Qin’er got more and more into her performance, as if she would not give up until Jun Huang lost herself as well. When Jun Huang thought it was about time, she shot a silver needle at Qin’er.
Qin’er fell unconscious. The men came to their senses like they had been jerked out of a dream.
“You were charmed,” Jun Huang said. She didn’t go into details, but the men understood what had happened. They touched their heads and realized that they were sweating. They had been trapped in an alluring dream. If Jun Huang had not stopped Qin’er, they would fall deeper and deeper in trance.
They felt a growing respect for Jun Huang. She was able to save them despite the circumstances! She really was a special man.
Jun Huang didn’t say anything. The more she talked, the more likely her true identity would be revealed. She would let the men considered her to be someone in control of her carnal desires. It wasn’t a big deal.
She got to her feet. Her legs were going numb again. She stumbled and almost fell. Fortunately one of the men managed to steady her. Jun Huang thanked him and took a step back. She was polite, but distant. Unapproachable.
“What happened to the woman?” the young man who caught Jun Huang asked. He had spoken a little quickly - perhaps trying to dissolve the awkward air between them. The other men in the room heard him as well. They turned to Jun Huang in unison.
“She’s fine. I only knocked her out. She would forget about what happened when she wakes up. Don’t worry.” Jun Huang threw the woman collapsing on the chair a glance. A cold smile tugged at her lips. Without wasting any more time, she walked to the door.
There was someone outside - the procuress. Jun Huang looked around and waited to see where the procuress was going. Jun Huang and the men listened to the procuress’ footsteps getting fainter and fainter.
Once it went quiet outside, one of the men asked, “I have a question, gentleman Feng.”
Jun Huang knew what he was going to ask. “There’s something wrong with the procuress. There can’t be more than a dozen women like Qing’er here. They are mostly sent to keep important officials company. Perhaps that’s the way people here gather information. The procuress must have assumed that we came from an important family. This is something we have to discuss with the prince before we make any decisions.”
“Shouldn’t we look into it further?” another man asked carefully.
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