Chapter 208: Secret Plan
The third prince wasted no time before he hurried out of the manor. Ji Bo stayed seated and left the third prince to it. Ji Bo’s only worry had been that the third prince would not dare to take action. Fortunately the third prince had done what they needed him to do.
The third prince went to ask the commander of the imperial army for help, saying that he had found the men from Eastern Wu. The commander was loyal to the third prince. Without hesitation, he assembled a team to help the prince. The third prince led the team directly to the brothel.
Without giving any warnings, the third prince ordered the imperial army to surround the building. It was peak hour for the brothel. The soldiers rushing into the building caused screams to ring through the first floor.
The procuress’ heart sank. She could guess what was happening, but this was Northern Qi’s ground. She didn’t dare to do anything reckless. She put on a smile and walked up to the soldiers. “What’s happening? What are the esteemed guests here for?”
The third prince scoffed at the procuress and waved a hand in the air. “Arrest everyone! The others, go upstairs and search thoroughly!”
“No! You mustn’t! This is a small business. What is this raid for? You’re forcibly going through - ”
The procuress’ wails grated on the third prince’s nerves. He slapped her and snapped, “Shut up! Or I’ll kill you!”
The procuress fell silent. She could only watch as the third prince ransacked her brothel and arrested everyone, including her. They were put into prison.
The man watching the brothel for Qi Chen had seen what the third prince was doing. They sent a messenger to notify Qi Chen. When the messenger reached the manor, however, he was told that Qi Chen had gone to the temple with Rou’er, and would not return until tomorrow. He was at a loss of what to do.
He went to Jun Huang for help. She, however, looked so pale it was as if she would stop breathing the next second.
Jun Huang didn’t say anything to break the silence. She knew what the man was here for. After a good while, the man finally said, “The third prince led a group of soldiers to the brothel and arrested everyone, gentleman Feng! I went to find the prince, but he’s left with Lady Rou’er. He’s not in the imperial city at the moment.”
Jun Huang widened her eyes and broke into a coughing fit. Blood splattered out of her mouth. The man startled and tried to help her, but Nan Xun pushed past him.
“What’s wrong?” Nan Xun asked nervously.
Out of the messenger’s line of sight, Jun Huang shook her head at Nan Xun reassuringly. It took some time for her to stop coughing. She gestured for Nan Xun to step back before saying, “I got sick yesterday. The doctor said that I should not leave the room. What you must do now is to locate the prince and tell him what’s happened. Then have people watch the third prince’s manor to figure out what he’s trying to do.”
The man nodded. “Understood. I’ve sent a man to notify the prince already. They won’t be back until after midnight. I’ll arranged for someone to keep watch on the third prince. The gentleman should have a good rest. I’ll take my leave.”
The man bowed at her and walked away. Everything had happened so suddenly. He wasn’t prepared. Controlling the situation was therefore difficult.
Once the man had left, Jun Huang’s body slumped on the bed. She started coughing again. Her face was as pale as a sheet. In panic, Nan Xun rushed out to send for a doctor. He only let himself relax when the doctor said that Jun Huang would be alright.
She had caught a cold after exhausting herself yesterday. She would be fine after resting.
Nan Xun had heard the same thing from different doctors again and again, but still, it was comforting. Everything was alright as long as Jun Huang was fine.
Jun Huang took some medicine and got back to bed. Nan Xun stayed at her bedside out of concerns. Jun Huang smiled and patted the back of his hand. “I’m fine. Starting from tomorrow, Qi Chen will shift all his focus away from me. The imperial court, however, is a landmine. You have to be careful and keep yourself out of trouble.”
Nan Xun nodded. He knew what he had to do.
When Qi Chen rushed back to the imperial city, the sun was rising from the horizon. He made his way to the brothel. The place was indeed under siege. Frustrated, he turned to Jun Huang for advice, but he was told that Jun Huang was sick. He knew she was prone to illnesses, so he didn’t question the explanation. He turned his focus to the third prince. The third prince had already gone to the palace for the morning meeting.
It was Qi Chen’s day off. That was why he had been caught completely off guard by his brother. Qi Chen gritted his teeth. He rushed to the palace right after sending Rou’er back to the manor.
Many officials were waiting outside the palace. The third prince could not suppress the smile tugging at his lips. The officials who were friendly with the prince exchanged some small talk with him. He responded to their friendly jabs with unusual grace. It was clear that the third prince was in a good mood.
“Ah, if it isn’t second brother,” said the third prince. His voice was loud enough to reach every officials currently present. They turned around and saw Qi Chen, his expression dark. They debated over what to do. Qi Chen wasn’t someone they could afford to offend. They greeted Qi Chen as if everything was normal.
The third prince narrowed his eyes at Qi Chen. He could tell that Qi Chen was angry and tired. He must have received the news last night, and had departed for the imperial city immediately. The third prince couldn’t be more pleased. Even the wind seemed more pleasant. His smile deepened.
Qi Chen clenched his hands into fists. He wanted to punch the third prince in his smug face. As soon as he took a step forward, however, a eunuch came out to announce that the morning meeting had started. The officials got into a line and entered the palace one by one.
The emperor looked down from his throne and spotted Qi Chen. With a frown, he said, “Isn’t this your day off? Why have you come?”
Qi Chen bowed to the emperor. “This son is now head of the east palace. I must keep the state affairs as my priority. I know there are still many things I have to learn. Even on off days, I should come listen to the reports. I cannot afford to stop learning.”
The explanation Qi Chen gave was perfectly valid, and it pleased the emperor. The emperor praised him generously.
The third prince kept a cold gaze on Qi Chen. He took a step forward and knelt down before the emperor. “Royal Father, this son has searched through the operation base of the spies from Eastern Wu, and the spies themselves had been arrested. They were kept in the prison in the Court of Judicial Review. They await Royal Father’s interrogation.”
The spies had been on the emperor’s mind. He got to his feet and asked in surprise, “Is it true?”
“This son dares not to trick Royal Father. I didn’t say a word of artifice.”
The third prince went on to explain that he had discovered the operation base on accident. He then sought out the imperial army for help in the raid. He was suddenly reminded that it was against the rule for him to command the imperial army without asking for permission. He apologized for his mistakes.
The emperor was too delighted to care. He showered the third prince with praises. Qi Chen, on the other hand, had disappointed him. He had tasked Qi Chen with the responsibility, but in the end, it was the third prince who had discovered the spies first. Before a whole room of scholar officials and military officials, the emperor put the third prince in charge of the matter.
With fake deference, the third prince said to Qi Chen that he would need Qi Chen’s advice. Qi Chen barely stopped himself from losing his temper. He tightened his jaw and glared at the third prince.
After the meeting, Qi Chen dragged the third prince - who was entirely too pleased with himself - to the side and scoffed. “I didn’t know the third prince could be so cunning and so shameless.”
The third prince arched an eyebrow and broke out of Qi Chen’s hold. “Second brother has misunderstood me. We both are trying to lessen the burden on Royal Father’s shoulders. Of course I have to do something when I’m able to. Even though I’m not as thoughtful as second brother, it seems that Royal Father prefers my honesty. Second brother is the one who let the opportunity slip. What good is it going to do for you to mock me now?”
Qi Chen never knew the third prince had such a sharp tongue. The third prince didn’t want to waste any more time talking to Qi Chen. “This brother has other business to attend to. I’m not going to stay here. If second brother has so much time, you should go back home and spend time with your family. Please excuse me.”
Qi Chen stared daggers at the third prince’s back. His hands balled into tight fists. He stayed there for a good while before leaving with a huff.
Nan Xun watched them go from the door of the palace. His lips quirked up.
Once everyone had left, Qi Yun walked to Nan Xun’s side and asked, “Is this all thanks to gentleman Feng as well?”
Nan Xun turned to him without a word, waiting for Qi Yun to continue. As he expected, what came out of Qi Yun’s mouth next were words that would hurt Jun Huang.
“She truly is willing to do anything to destroy Eastern Wu,” Qi Yun said coldly. “Everyone is now panicking. The imperial city is falling into chaos. If the men from Eastern Wu seize the opportunity, it is the people that are going to pay for it. Do you two know that?”
“Of course we do,” said Nan Xun. “The gentleman and I will find ways to solve the problems. Please excuse me.”
When Nan Xun returned to his manor, Jun Huang had just woken up. She sat on the hallway looking at the flowers and greenery in the garden, her expression inscrutable. Suddenly. Nan Xun started to question if everything was worth it after all. He sighed and walked up to her.
Jun Huang looked over at him when she heard his footsteps. She smiled. “How was it?”
“As you predicted, the emperor has put the third prince in charge. Qi Chen cannot hate the third prince more.”
Nan Xun told her everything that happened during the morning meeting. The frown on Jun Huang’s face, however, remained.
After a good while, Jun Huang sighed. “The country is getting more and more chaotic. Eastern Wu has always been watching Northern Qi for any openings. In no time, they would send out an army to Northern Qi and take revenge against you.”
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