Chapter 209: Diverging Thoughts
These were all factors Jun Huang and Nan Xun had taken into consideration. She believed that with Nan Xun’s and Qi Yun’s help, she would be able to keep the damage under control. Besides, she now had the House of Heavenly Fiends on her side. The tiger had acquired a pair of wings. She would not let things go according to Eastern Wu’s plan.
Still, there was a lingering doubt in her heart. The civilians were the ones who would pay the ultimate price. She could only do her best to minimize the casualties.
Nan Xun didn’t tell Jun Huang what Qi Yun had said. It would do nothing but to make her feel bad. It was better to let it be forgotten.
Seeing Jun Huang’s furrowed brows, Nan Xun took her cool hands and said, “Don’t worry. Northern Qi is not an easy prey, and Eastern Wu doesn’t always win. I’ve beaten them once. I can beat them again. Moreover, I’ve gained permission from the emperor to stock up military supplies in secret, while I myself have been training the soldiers. We are prepared for this fight.”
“And the emperor agreed?” Jun Huang asked in surprise. The emperor had been avoiding getting into wars with other countries. On one hand, he was reluctant to let Nan Xun back to doing what he did best. On the other hand, the emperor was worried that he would lose his life. In the end, he was but a man who was afraid of death.
Nan Xun nodded. “The emperor would like to left a mark in history. No emperor is willing to be known as a leader who had achieved nothing. When I brought it up, he agreed readily. Preparations are being made. We only hide our efforts to cheat those from Eastern Wu. The more chaotic the circumstances seem, the better we can catch Eastern Wu off guard.”
Jun Huang considered the issue. So that was why the emperor agreed to let his sons investigate the spies. He wanted to use this opportunity to eliminate Eastern Wu once and for all. She didn’t expect the emperor to make such a bold decision.
“Then I’ll stop worrying too much,” Jun Huang said with a chuckle.
For the longest time, her only goal was to eliminate Eastern Wu. When she talked about her ambitions to unite the world, she was merely humoring other people. Now that the end was getting closer, and everything was happening quickly, she realized that she must not leave Qi Yun to deal with Qi Chen alone. It was time that she took care of Qi Chen.
It was, however, easier said than done. Qi Chen was after all the crown prince. He was the candidate for the throne. Even though his biggest supporters had been eliminated, there was still a secret force behind him. She had to be careful and looked for an opening.
At night, Nan Guyue stayed in the garden waiting for Qi Chen to come. She had heard about how angry Qi Chen was today. Even though she didn’t think she would be able to help with his problems, she hoped that Qi Chen would come and let her comfort him.
Unexpectedly, Qi Chen came to visit. Nan Guyue shot up to her feet with a smile. “Your Highness.”
Qi Chen threw Nan Guyue a glance and gave her a nod before entering the building. She caught up with him and helped him take off his outer robe. She then ordered a servant to prepare some hot wine to warm Qi Chen up. Qi Chen, though, waved a hand to stop the servant.
Nan Guyue couldn’t go against his will. She dismissed the servant and took a seat at Qi Chen’s side.
“I’ve heard what has happened during the meeting. That - ”
“Don’t you know that women should not get involved in matters in the court?” Qi Chen cut in harshly.
Nan Guyue fell silent. She knew Qi Chen was in a bad mood, but she didn’t expect him to lose his temper on her. Other than the time Qi Chen mistakenly suspected her of having an affair, Qi Chen had always been gentle with her. They had treated each other with respect. What happened to make him change?
Nan Guyue was prone to overthinking. Wei Lanying could never rise up again. Rou’er was merely a nobody who didn’t care about power. Nan Guyue was the only one who could be considered Qi Chen’s wife. Qi Chen, however, had been more and more distant to her. She wondered if Qi Chen had acquired another lover.
It was normal for men from the royal family to have a few serving concubines. Wei Lanying and Rou’er had come to the manor before her. There was nothing she could do to change that. Without the child, though, Nan Guyue didn’t want another woman to come into the manor. What was she going to do then?
Nan Guyue curved her lips into a smile and pushed her thoughts away. “If Your Highness is tired, I’ll help you sleep.”
Qi Chen was exhausted. He rubbed at his forehead and walked toward the bed. Nan Guyue took off his clothes for him, her fingers gliding across his body seductively.
The red candle by the bed dripped tears of wax over its base. The bed veil next to her cast a faint shade of pink on her cheeks. With her head lowered, she looked like a bashful bride waiting for her groom on their wedding night.
Qi Chen only realized then that Nan Guyue was dressed in a thin layer of robe. The wind swept up her broad sleeves, revealing the fair velvet skin of her arms. If it was any other day, Qi Chen would not be able to resist her. Today, however, he really wasn’t in the mood. He sighed at Nan Guyue and caught her wandering hands.
“I’m tired. Sleep.” Qi Chen climbed onto bed and lay down. Nan Guyue stared at him dumbly. A tangled mess of feelings occupied her heart.
She put out the candle and lay down on Qi Chen’s side. She wanted to hold his hand, but Qi Chen turned away as soon as their skin touched. It was clear he didn’t appreciate the intimacy.
They shared the same bed, but their hearts were not aligned. Nan Guyue started to wonder if her earlier suspicion had been true after all. Sleep didn’t come easily, and she didn’t fall asleep until dawn. When she woke up, Qi Chen was gone. The lack of warmth on his side of the bed told her that he had left for some time.
The maid served her as Nan Guyue went through her morning routines. Even after the maid had left, Nan Guyue stayed seated before the bronze mirror. The more she thought, the more suspicious she grew. She got to her feet and considered asking for Jun Huang to come, but it didn’t seem appropriate. In the end, she put on an outer robe and left for Jun Huang’s place.
Jun Huang had been staying in Nan Xun’s manor. She only returned to her home because something had come up. Once the matter was dealt with, the page boy watching the door told her that the princess was here. Putting aside her surprise, Jun Huang let Nan Guyue in.
Under the pavilion in the garden, Nan Guyue surveyed the lively plants and flowers with cold eyes. They matched well with Jun Huang’s turquoise robe. She looked at Jun Huang with a hand around the teacup.
Jun Huang was at a loss as to what Nan Guyue was staring at her for. She stayed silent.
After Jun Huang had finished a cup of tea, Nan Guyue said, “Be honest with me, Feng Baiyu. Is there anyone suspicious by the prince’s side?”
Jun Huang looked at her in confusion.
The sun shone from behind Jun Huang, illuminating her beautiful face. Her turquoise robe looked vibrant under the sun. Jun Huang had always been graceful. Even though she was doing something as simple as drinking tea, she was mesmerizing.
The answer seemed clear to Nan Guyue.
She had heard that Jun Huang was into men. Everyone in the imperial city knew it. In the past, Nan Guyue had not connected that to the fact that Jun Huang had been serving Qi Chen loyally without asking for anything in return. Now, her eyes had been opened. Jun Huang must have wanted Qi Chen, but couldn’t have him. That was why she threw herself into Nan Xun’s arms.
The fondness Nan Guyue once had for Jun Huang disappeared. In its place were anger and distaste. Qi Chen must have grown distant with her because of Jun Huang.
Jun Huang didn’t know what Nan Guyue was thinking about. She had noticed the frown on Nan Guyue’s face, but she didn’t think too much of it.
To get rid of Qi Chen, Jun Huang had to slowly weed out Qi Chen’s supporters. She could start with Nan Guyue. Taking away Southern Mu’s support meant one less ally Qi Chen could turn to.
The more Jun Huang thought, the more she found it a viable option. Nan Guyue seemed to think that Qi Chen had found a new lover. She must have been getting nervous because of Qi Chen’s increasingly cold attitude, which prompted Nan Guyue to come to her for answers.
Jun Huang looked up at Nan Guyue and put on a concerned expression. “I… didn’t want to tell the princess. I worried that the princess would develop another illness because of it. In the end, however, I find it unfair for the princess to be kept in the dark. The prince has found someone he loves. He doesn’t allow me to tell you in the fear that you’ll be upset with him. The princess has come to me personally, however. This gentleman cannot stand seeing you in agony.”
Jun Huang did have a sharp tongue, but she couldn’t read minds. She didn’t know what Nan Guyue was thinking.
Nan Guyue was angry that Jun Huang dared to flaunt Qi Chen’s favor so openly. She believed she had discovered the truth. How shameless could this person be?! She grew resentful of both Jun Huang and Qi Chen.
Nan Guyue considered putting everything on the table. She wasn’t the one who was going to lose face. Qi Chen was the crown prince, however. He was going to inherit the throne one day. Nan Guyue would be the empress then, not Jun Huang. She told herself to be patient. There was no need for her to give up on being the most powerful woman in the country because of Jun Huang. She took a deep breath to suppress her anger and forced herself to smile.
Nan Guyue took a sip of her tea. “So what? The prince is a busy man. Even if he has set his eyes on someone, it’s merely for him to relieve his stress. No one in the royal family can truly be a loyal lover. The prince can do whatever he wishes to do. I’ll wait at home for him to return.”
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