Jun Huang’s speculation took shape in her head, but she didn’t have any evidence to support it. She kept quiet.
Prince Duan had found out that Ji Bo was in the imperial city, but he didn’t know about the relationship between her and Ji Bo, at least not yet. The way Prince Duan treated her could be interpreted in many ways. She didn’t know what he was thinking. It was better for her to exercise the utmost caution.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Nan Xun said, looking at her furrowed eyebrows. “What about you write a letter now, and I’ll hand it to him when I can?”
Jun Huang nodded. “That’s the only thing we can do. You must be careful. I have a feeling that Prince Duan’s been watching me. You’re now living in my manor. He must be watching you as well.”
Nan Xun didn’t really need the reminder. He patted her head with a smile and said reassuringly, “Don’t worry. I’m a general after all. If I don’t want anyone to follow me, no one can. To be on the safe side, I’ll have someone else send the letter for me.”
Jun Huang relaxed somewhat. She sat at the desk and thought for a moment before penning the letter. Her handwriting was delicate, the strokes thin but sharp. Nan Xun watched her from next to her. When she was done, he browsed through the letter and carefully folded it.
It was a few days later that Ji Bo received the letter. He broke into cold sweat. He did have a feeling that something big was going to happen, but this he hadn’t expected.
Jun Huang briefly described her meeting with Prince Duan and the conversation between him and Qi Chen. She told him to find a safe place to stay at and don’t show his face for the time being. If there was anything he wanted to tell her, he could send a message through the House of Heavenly Fiends.
Ji Bo’s expression turned dark. He’d thought he’d been hiding himself well, but Prince Duan spotted him. Perhaps it was for the best. He could stay away for some time and avoid getting involved in the conflict. When the time was right, he’d make his return.
Ji Bo took a deep breath and held the letter over a candle. The fire consumed the sheet of paper, leaving only ashes that floated in the air.
He brushed ashes off his robe and put out the candle. He made his way to the main hall for the third prince.
The third prince had not been doing well. He’d spent a lot of money on the weapons. It bothered him to lose them so suddenly. He wanted nothing more than to tear Qi Chen to pieces.
“This gentleman has something to report, Your Highness.”
Ji Bo’s voice jerked the third prince out of his trance. He looked up at him with a frown. “What is it?”
Ji Bo knew the third prince wouldn’t let him go without an explanation. He had an idea. He asked the prince to dismiss the servants before proposing a few more plans that could make Qi Chen’s life difficult. The third prince was delighted. In his good mood, he readily agreed to let Ji Bo take some days off after asking only a couple questions.
It helped that Ji Bo had been a hermit who stayed in the mountain away from temptations of the material world. The third prince assumed that it was Ji Bo’s choice of lifestyle. He therefore didn’t suspect anything.
Ji Bo packed up and left for the home base of the House of Heavenly Fiends with their help. He’d wait and see how everything played out.
Qi Chen was a little surprised when he was told that Ji Bo had left the imperial city, but all in all, it was a good thing. Without Ji Bo, the third prince was a fangless snake that couldn’t do much but intimidate. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity he must not miss.
He invited both Prince Duan and Jun Huang to discuss their future plan. Jun Huang gingerly laid out her analysis, careful not to let her tongue slip. Only then did Prince Duan stop staring at her and joined in the conversation. She let out a silent sigh of relief and wiped her sweat away.
They agreed that it was time for them to submit the evidence to the emperor. Prince Duan, however, thought that the evidence Jun Huang had collected wasn’t complete enough. After all, they never found the weapons the third prince had been hiding. The third prince might turn their accusation against them.
Qi Chen agreed. They made up some more evidence before Qi Chen took everything to the palace. The emperor was furious. He sent for the third prince to question him.
The third prince ran into Qi Chen at the entrance of the palace. Alarm bells rang in his head. He stopped Qi Chen and demanded, “What has second brother told Royal Father?”
“Ha, it doesn’t matter. What matters is if third brother has committed the crimes.” Qi Chen cackled maniacally. The third prince gritted his teeth. He couldn’t do anything but to watch Qi Chen go with his fists clenched. He gathered his thoughts once Qi Chen was out of his sight. This was going to be a difficult fight, but he must persevere.
He opened the door and was met with a teacup flying his way. He shuddered and dropped down to his knees. The teacup shattered on the wall, splashing tea all over him. Some tea leaves got stuck in his hair, but he didn’t dare wipe it off.
He took a deep breath to control his emotions and crawled towards the emperor. “Royal Father.”
“Useless thing,” the emperor said coldly. What an embarrassment his son was to be terrified by a teacup.
The third prince remained silent. He knew he might make mistakes by speaking more.
The third prince’s timid behavior perturbed the emperor. He threw all the evidence Qi Chen had handed him at the third prince. The third prince snuck the emperor a glance before picking the documents up. The more he read, the harder he scowled. He thought back to his encounter with Qi Chen. His brother must be behind all this.
“This son is innocent, Royal Father,” the third prince cried out.
The emperor had been convinced of the third prince’s guilt. He believed that the third prince simply didn’t want to admit his guilt. He looked at his son coldly.
The third prince’s hackles raised. The emperor’s eyes were frosty. He lowered his head guiltily.
“Explain!” The emperor couldn’t stand seeing the third prince curling into himself like a turtle hiding in its own shell. He kicked the third prince, causing him to lose balance and fall onto the floor. The prince didn’t dare make a sound.
His eyes darted around in bemusement before he said, “Royal Father, second brother’s setting me up. I’ve never done any of these things. I wouldn’t dare cheat you ever. Please believe me, Royal Father.”
The emperor scoffed. “Why wouldn’t you dare? Do you think I don’t know how the two of you have been recruiting courtiers to your side? The evidence is clear, and yet your try to weasel yourself out of it. Do you think this is a lawless land? Do you know princes receive the same sentence as peasants?”
“I’m innocent, Royal Father. This son won’t dare colluding with the enemies. I’ve only crafted weapons in secret - ”
He knew he’d made a grave mistake as soon as the words left his mouth. He held his tongue, petrified, his eyes downcast at the floor. He was a damn fool.
The emperor trembled in fury. He kicked the third prince a few more times. The prince took the abuse with his jaw tightened. The sharp pain caused cold sweat to pop out of his forehead. His face went pale.
“Tell me everything you’ve done so far, or I’ll have you executed.”
The third prince knew his father wasn’t joking. He could get killed. He fearfully listed out his treacherous deeds. The emperor threw another teacup at him in rage, hitting him in the head. Blood streamed down his face. He lost consciousness at the sight of his own blood.
The emperor ordered a few men to take the third prince to the prison before wobbling back to the throne. His temples throbbed painfully.
Qi Yun had reached the main hall with the emperor’s medicine while the emperor was still arguing with the third prince. This wasn’t the right time for him to make an entrance, so he stayed outside with the eunuchs.
He heard the sound of something shattering. Then the emperor called out for a few guards to enter.
He followed the royal guards inside and immediately saw the third prince’s prone form. He frowned but quickly smoothed his expression out. The emperor sat on the throne with a dark expression as he called out for the third prince to be thrown into prison.
Qi Chen didn’t want to intervene, but the third prince was still bleeding from his head. That was his brother after all. Even though they were fighting for the throne, he could never be as cold-blooded as Qi Chen. He placed the bowl of medicine on the table and knelt down at the center of the room. “This son doesn’t know how third brother has angered Royal Father, but he’s hurt. Even if Royal Father is to punish him, he should receive treatment from the royal doctor first.”
The emperor looked at Qi Yun. He knew how the third prince had stirred up troubles for Qi Yun after he failed to get his brother on his side. Qi Yun never complained. He solved the problem himself and put it out of his mind. It was remarkable that he was still willing to plead for mercy for the third prince.
The emperor motioned at a eunuch to take care of the issue before helping Qi Yun straighten up. He patted Qi Yun on the back of his hand. “You’re the only one who still cares about the family among all my children.”
“Royal Father is too kind,” Qi Yun said with his eyes lowered. He helped the emperor take the medicine.
The emperor seemed to have aged overnight because of his burst of fury. He stayed on the bed and struggled to even sit up. It worried Qi Yun. He attended to the emperor day and night.
The emperor ordered Qi Chen to take care of affairs of the state for the time being while Qi Yun cared for him.
Qi Chen had been helping with the court affairs, but the emperor never granted him real power to be more than a prince in training until now. He wasn’t used to having full authority to make real decisions.Previous Chapter Next Chapter