Qi Chen ran into the third prince when he was about to return to his manor. The third prince threw him a glare and left with a huff. Qi Chen’s expression went dark. He’d just been scolded by the emperor. And now the third prince came all the way to mock him.
Jun Huang met up with Ji Bo and said without ceremony, “Has the third prince truly been tipped off by someone and cleaned up his trace?”
Ji Bo was caught off guard. He shook his head after a pause. “No, he hasn’t. The third prince thinks it was Qi Chen who took away his weapons. Are you saying it wasn’t?”
Jun Huang frowned. What was going on here? She told Ji Bo about what had happened earlier. He fell into a contemplative silence.
Something was wrong. Where had the weapons gone? Who was the one behind everything? Why did he do this?
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Jun Huang said calmly. “Now they suspect each other to be responsible for their situation. The third prince believes it was Qi Chen who stole his things and set him up. Qi Chen believes that the third prince has erased his tracks to embarrass him. It’s beneficial to us for them to keep fighting with no regard for their familial bond. What’s more problematic is the mastermind behind everything. We have to investigate as soon as we can, or we’ll all become the pawns on his chessboard.”
Her analysis made sense. Known enemies such as Qi Chen and the the third prince were easy to deal with. The biggest threat was those hiding in the dark. Hidden arrows were difficult to avoid. They had to find those potential threats now.
“The conflict between the two parties would only become more and more serious,” Ji Bo added as a reminder. “No one can predict what will happen. You must take care of yourself.”
Jun Huang knew the situation she was put in. Qi Chen had introduced her to the other courtiers. Everyone knew she was Qi Chen’s strategist. The third prince would target her after what happened. She could only deal with the threats as they came.
She nodded to reassure Ji Bo and reminded him to be careful as well.
As they predicted, the fight between Qi Chen and the third prince had become more and more intense. Many officials lost their positions before they even got settled, while those Qi Yun recommended had already embedded themselves in the court. Very little effort was required for Jun Huang to find out that those who lost their jobs had bought their titles from the third prince. The third prince was put in a difficult position between people he’d made promises to.
The conflict between two factions had become a full blown war. Nan Xun was worried that Jun Huang would get hurt in the crossfire. In the past, she was used to walking to the crown prince’s manor on her own. Now Nan Xun had arranged a coach to take her around the city out of concern.
Today, she went to Prince Chen Manor as usual. Nan Xun reminded the guards he assigned her to keep her safe. Recently, he’d been doing this every day. He was as fussy as a mother, but she had to admit it warmed her heart every time he gave the guards the rundown.
The coach came to a halt on the main street. Jun Huang didn’t need to part the curtains to figure out what was happening. She ran into open arguments between the two factions a lot lately. She was used to it. However, she was in a hurry today. She asked one of the guards Nan Xun assigned her to go mediate the fight.
She stayed in the coach calmly. The two men had a personal feud beforehand. They refused to leave the street and insisted on getting a result.
Jun Huang was exasperated when the guard briefed her. She parted the curtain and glanced at the two group of men, then at the bystanders here for the drama. She sighed. She didn’t have a choice but to get off the coach and take a detour.
She was immediately spotted by the two men in argument. The one represented the third prince was a knowledgeable but condescending official. He blocked her way.
Jun Huang looked up at him. The face didn’t ring a bell. The man, though, remembered her well.
“Oh, isn’t this the men-loving strategist from the crown prince manor?” he called out in a loud voice. His intention to humiliate Jun Huang was clear.
She didn’t react the way he expected. Instead of getting angry, she chuckled with her foldable fan in her hand. “What does that have to do with you?”
He couldn’t stand seeing Jun Huang’s composed and graceful look. His words grew more and more unsavoury.
“It has nothing to do with me, but it disgusts me to see a filthy man like you in broad daylight. It’s said that you willingly open yourself to the crown prince’s intrusion to gain his favor. Tsk, does it feel good for you?”
Jun Huang frowned at him in displeasure. She didn’t want to start a trouble. She took a deep breath and said, “The official works for the state. It’s unbecoming of you to insult a nobody like me in public.”
The official took that as she feeling hurt by his words. His smile widened and turned leery. “Why would a man like you willingly open up for another man? Why can’t I point out the truth? It’s said that insidious villains and women are pests you can never get rid of. You must be the insidious ones in this case.”
She’d like to avoid a conflict, but the man refused to cooperate. He insisted on stirring up troubles and spout off insults without thinking twice. Jun Huang was furious, but she had to stay calm so as to not lower herself to his level.
She took a deep breath and gave the man a stilted smile. “You’ve been unnecessarily harsh, sir. Weren’t you born and raised by a woman? As for being insidious… This gentleman has always been honest and open. That’s far from an apt description.”
The crowd erupted into discussion. The official didn’t expect her to have such a silver tongue. She’d easily shift the focus to him. His face fell.
Nan Xun was training soldiers in the courtyard. The guard following Jun Huang had left to notify Nan Xun when the argument started. After all it wasn’t a simple matter. Guards like them were in no place to intervene when an official was involved. Nan Xun would have to step in himself.
Nan Xun saw the guard when he was on break. He had a bad feeling about this. Without hesitation, he walked up to the guard and asked what had happened.
“Your Highness...” The guard told him everything without overstating or understating anything. Nan Xun’s face went red in rage. He said a few words to his second in command before leaving with the guard.
When he got to the main street, the official was still arguing with Jun Huang.
“You must have pleased a lot of people with that mouth of yours. Ha, you’re a poor excuse of a man. How dare someone like you shamelessly show your face in public? If I were you, I’d have jumped down a well to kill myself.”
The official hurled insults at her with abandon. He was a scholarly official after all, though. He didn’t have a great repository of offending words. Jun Huang looked at him like he was a clown.
She could take the verbal abuse, but Nan Xun couldn’t. He kicked the official in the stomach. The official lost his balance and face-planted into the ground. He yelped in pain and pushed himself up, intending to lash out at his attacker, but he was met with Nan Xun’s furious face. Fear seized his throat and rendered him silent.
“Your… Your Highness… you...”
Nan Xun paid no attention to the official and addressed the crowd, “Do you know where you are? You’re violating the state’s law.”
The crowd dispersed immediately. The man who had been arguing with the official was going to leave as well, but Nan Xun stopped him.
He stared at the two opposing officials coldly and sent a guard to the Court of Judicial Review. He silently stayed at Jun Huang’s side. The two men recognized the severity of the situation belatedly and knelt down to beg Nan Xun for forgiveness. Nan Xun didn’t even spare them a glance.
A few runners from the Court of Judicial Review came not long after and took the two men away. Jun Huang asked, “What do you send them to the court for?”
“Since they love arguing so much, they can argue in the court to their heart’s content.”
Jun Huang chuckled after a brief pause.
The housekeeper of the crown prince’s manor came. Qi Chen had heard about the incident and sent him to deliver her a message. She didn’t have to go to the manor for the next few days. She was told to stay at home and lay low for a while.
Nan Xun agreed that she should avoid the public for the time being. Jun Huang didn’t argue. She told the housekeeper that she’d be staying at Nan Xun’s place and asked him to tell Qi Chen for her. That was one less thing for them to worry about.
Jun Huang was quiet on their way to Nan Xun’s manor. She realized that he was still wearing his armors. He must have come straight from the training ground.
“You didn’t have to come in such a hurry,” she whispered. “The man was just barking nonsense. He couldn’t hurt me.”
Nan Xun scowled. Jun Huang was too calm. That was why the man didn’t think twice before insulting her. “You can’t just take the abuse without fighting back. Do you know how much his words would damaged your reputation? I was able to intervene this time. You mustn’t let them off the hook easily next time. You have to teach them a lesson.”
Jun Huang’s lips quirked up. She didn’t care about the insults. What angered her was the fact that a scholarly man like the official would stoop so low as to compare women to pests.
She didn’t voice her thoughts. Thinking back to what had happened, she recognized that there was a need for her to lay low. The fight between the third prince and Qi Chen was getting intense. She’d be caught in crossfire if she didn’t stay away from the conflict. She didn’t want to be defamed because of Qi Chen.
Nan Xun’s words irked her a little. She was the victim here, and yet he blamed her for her inaction. She fumed, thinking her home a better place to be. “You’re right. That reminds me, I’ve stayed at your place long enough. If I don’t leave, your reputation will be damaged along with mine. I should go back to my place.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter