Chapter 234: Empty

Nan Xun believed that he’d be able to melt the ice encasing Jun Huang’s heart as time went by. As long as he continued to care for her and protect her, she’d one day stop denying her own feelings.

“Last night...” she muttered hesitantly. Her expression remained calm, but she could feel her heart in her throat.

Nan Xun thought back to what happened last night. He’d sung a nursery rhyme for her. Once she fell asleep, he intended to leave the room. She, however, caught his wrist to stop him from leaving. Their conversation about her past had led to a nightmare. He could see tears streaming down her face.

He didn’t intend to bring it up. He didn’t want her to remember the pain she’d been through in her sleep. “I fell asleep last night due to exhaustion… If I’ve made you uncomfortable, let me know...”

She shook her head. Images from the nightmare were still fresh in her mind. She hadn’t forgotten about her moment of weakness. She just wondered why she’d grown so dependent on Nan Xun. Perhaps it was always difficult to know yourself.

“It’s fine,” she said with a sigh and sat up. “I’ve had a good night sleep. I’d like to continue work on what I’ve left unfinished yesterday.”

She did sleep pretty well. He knew she couldn’t rest easy until she took care of her business herself. Even if he stopped her, she’d be thinking about work. There was nothing he could do to stop her mind from focusing on work if she didn’t want to.

He nodded and gave up on arguing with her. “Do as you must, but you have to take care of yourself. Don’t stay up working. Otherwise I’ll force you to rest like I did yesterday.”

She knew he had her best interest in mind, and was merely trying to take care of her. She chuckled in response.

They had breakfast together. Nan Xun was worried that she’d forgo a meal due to her busy schedule, so he stayed with her until she finished eating. Afterwards, he went to the training ground to train his soldiers.

Jun Huang had a discussion with the man Qi Chen assigned her. She had ordered him to tail the third prince and watch his every move. The third prince had been cautious these days. The man didn’t have anything to report until today. He realized that the third prince had gone to the same location alone several times.

The man hurriedly came to Jun Huang and briefed her. She contemplated the information with a pensive expression. Her instinct told her to remain vigilant. “Go back to following him and don’t let him spot you. I’ll talk to the prince immediately.”

“That’s what I think as well,” said the man. “Since the gentleman agrees, we’ll split up. I’m going to keep watch on the location with a few men, and the gentleman should take the prince to meet us. We’ll catch the third prince off guard.”

Jun Huang appreciated the man for his competence, but alas, he was Qi Chen’s man. She wanted to make Qi Chen’s people hers, but she wasn’t sure if these men were dependable, and if they would be loyal to her.

Once the man left, she got to her feet and fixed her sleeves before making her way to the crown prince’s manor.

Qi Chen was delighted that Jun Huang and the men he assigned her had found the third prince’s secret base. He shot up from the chair and patted her on the shoulder. “With Brother Feng’s help, there’s nothing we cannot solve. I’ve heard about the third prince’s change in behavior. Brother Feng is indeed my best helper to be able to find his secret despite his caution.”

Jun Huang didn’t say anything. It wasn’t the first time Qi Chen complimented her. He was used to her lack of reaction.

“I’ll give him what he deserves,” Qi Chen said through gritted teeth. “He’s set me up and taken out many of my supporters. What a despicable man he is!”

Jun Huang was silent for a brief moment. “What does Your Highness plan to do?”

Qi Chen had made up his mind. He scoffed and said, “We won’t let him slip this time. No matter what arrangements he’s made, we mustn’t give him a chance to react. I’ll recruit the help of a troop and raid the location immediately.”

Jun Huang frowned but didn’t say anything. It was good that Qi Chen had lost his calm completely. She wanted him to make mistakes. Besides, he’d made up his mind. It’d be bad to waste time arguing with him. She might as well let him be.

Qi Chen noticed her thoughtful look. “Is there something wrong, Brother Feng?”

Jun Huang remained calm and expressionless. “Nothing. I just want to ask if Your Highness is going to report to the emperor first.”

Qi Chen shook his head. “There’s no need. I don’t want the information to be leaked. I’m going to the training ground now. Are you coming with me?”

Jun Huang nodded. They went to the training ground together. She spotted Nan Xun with a group of soldiers from afar. The weather was getting hotter. Everyone was sweating profusely, but none of them stopped what they were doing. She felt a little bad for Nan Xun.

Nan Xun didn’t notice them. Qi Chen was able to easily borrow a group of soldiers by talking to one of his supporters. He was the crown prince. As long as his purpose was legitimate, only a fool would try to stop him from asking for help. Everything went smoothly.

The two of them took a small troop to the third prince’s secret base. Qi Chen didn’t immediately rush in. He looked at the door with a cold expression.

Jun Huang didn’t like how he looked now. He resembled someone from Eastern Wu with his venomous glare.

She took a deep breath. Before she could urge him to make a move, Qi Chen charged in with the soldiers. She waited until everyone had entered before walking inside. She widened her eyes in shock when she got a good look at the room. Qi Chen couldn’t believe his eyes either.

“What the hell happened?” Jun Huang asked with a frown.

Qi Chen narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “There must be a traitor among us. The third prince was forewarned and moved everything out beforehand.”

Jun Huang didn’t respond. They’d come quickly, and she’d had someone keeping watch the whole time. She didn’t think the third prince would be capable of moving everything out under their scrutiny. Something was wrong. She didn’t know what she could say, so she stayed silent. Talking would only attract unwanted attention and suspicion.

Qi Chen flew into rage. He summoned the men keeping watch on the place and made them his punching bags. Still, he was angry.

Someone told the emperor that Qi Chen had called upon a group of soldiers without asking for permission. He summoned Qi Chen to the palace. There was nothing Qi Chen could do despite his fury. He took a deep breath and told Jun Huang to find the one who spoiled their plan. She accepted the order readily.

This was a warning. She didn’t think it had been the third prince. From her observation, this wasn’t something the prince would be capable of. There must be someone else pulling the strings in the dark.

Qi Chen rushed into the palace and knelt down at the center of the main hall. The emperor coughed and unsteadily got to his feet. He walked up to Qi Chen and slapped him.

The emperor was in a bad condition, but he’d put all his force behind the slap. Qi Chen felt a ring in his head. He gritted his teeth and said nothing to defend himself.

The emperor was so angry he started trembling. He pointed a finger at Qi Chen and snapped, “What do you think you’re doing? Are you going to commit treason?”

“This son wouldn’t dare,” Qi Chen rushed out.

The emperor scoffed, leveling him with a cold stare. “You wouldn’t dare? Is there anything you don’t dare to do? You’ve used the army without permission today. Are you going to force me to hand you the throne next time? Is there anything you wouldn’t do?”

Qi Chen was rendered speechless. He’d been reckless, but he was merely worried that the third prince would get wind of his plan and fled. He was also worried that the emperor might stop him from investigating.

The emperor had calmed down after his outburst. He sat back on his seat and asked, “Give me a good reason for your action.‘

Qi Chen looked up at him. “This son received information that someone was secretly making weapons. It’s too serious an issue for us to wait. I had my men look into it and got the result today. I worried that the perpetrators wouldn’t surrender willingly if I went there with only my people. That’s why I asked the army for help. That’s reckless of me. Please punish me, Royal Father.”

The emperor’s mood recovered a little. “How did it go?”

Qi Chen lowered his head further in embarrassment. “This son has failed. The perpetrators ran away.‘

The emperor snorted. After a long stretch of silence, he said, “You’ve failed to think before you took actions, but what was done was done. Since nothing of consequence has happened, I’m not going to give you a serious punishment. You’ll be deprived of a year of stipends. If there’s a next time, I won’t go easy on you.”

Qi Chen was frustrated, but he didn’t dare say anything. He accepted the punishment and walked out of the palace.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter