Qi Chen was excited to be granted the power, but he knew this was a double-edged sword. He must not make any mistakes now, or the emperor would deem him unfit for the throne. He dealt with state affairs with fastidious care and made sure to consult the emperor when a tricky problem arose.
The emperor relaxed when he saw that Qi Chen was doing a decent job. He reminded his son to be patient and take things slow. Qi Chen took his advice and told him to not worry too much. What he had to do now was to rest and recover.
Qi Chen was steadily building his foundation. As a result, Prince Duan had gained a strong voice in the court before anyone realized it. Qi Chen often consulted Prince Duan, and during meetings, no one dared argue against the decisions Qi Chen and Prince Duan made together. Even though a few pure-hearted officials refused to abandon their principles, they couldn’t possibly go against Prince Duan openly. Qi Yun told them to focus on their duty. The rest was out of their hands.
The officials understood him. Qi Chen was the one the emperor put in charge of the state affairs. It would only do them harm to go against him and Prince Duan. They could could do nothing but complain to Qi Yun every once in a while, who listened quietly and offer comforts.
The climate in the court was ever-changing. While Qi Chen and Prince Duan were expanding their influence, it was time for Jun Huang to take the next step.
The third prince, who was imprisoned, couldn’t have admitted defeat yet. Jun Huang had been suspecting that Qi Chen was actually Prince Duan’s son. She decided to take care of the two princes in one swift attempt.
Jun Huang sat in the garden with Qi Yun and Nan Xun. Qi Yun had been staying at the emperor’s side lately, which touched the emperor’s heart. Nan Xun had gone back to training with his soldiers every day. Life had been simple for him.
“There’s something I’ve never told you,” said Jun Huang. She came to the conclusion that she should open up to them and discuss with them how the information should be spread.
“What is it?” Qi Yun asked.
Nan Xun waited for her to continue with rapt attention.
She paused before telling them her suspicion and what led her to her speculation. She expressed herself clearly and logically. Her words prompted Qi Yun and Nan Xun to contemplate the validity of her theory.
Qi Yun agreed with Jun Huang. Given the circumstances, there was a good possibility that Qi Chen was Prince Duan’s son.
Qi Chen was now in power. If they did nothing, he’d become the emperor in no time. Then it’d be too late for them. “We should tell the emperor about it and turn things to our advantage.”
Jun Huang shook her head with a half smile. “That said, Your Highness must not forget that it’ll be difficult to get any of their blood for paternity testing. If we tell the emperor without evidence, he won’t believe us. Then Qi Chen may turn things against us and destroy our chance to make a comeback. We must be patient. A lot of factors are involved..”
Qi Yun wanted to say something, but it was as Jun Huang had said, Qi Chen was the crown prince. If they told the emperor about the speculation themselves, the emperor would come to suspect them.
Nan Xun broke his silence. “What do you think we should do?”
Jun Huang curved her lips and narrowed her eyes. “We direct the suspicion to someone else and kill with a borrowed knife.”
Nan Xun frowned. “You’re going to expose the secret through other people.”
“Yes,” she said confidently. “We should stay clear of the matter as much as possible, but we can’t just do nothing. It’s time that we spread the news. Don’t worry. I have a plan.”
Qi Yun looked at Nan Xun, then at Jun Huang. It was better to let Jun Huang take care of it. He nodded. “Since the gentleman has a plan already, I’ll leave the matter in your hands. If there’s anything you need from me, let me know.”
“Of course,” Jun Huang said without hesitation.
After Qi Yun had left, Nan Xun stopped Jun Huang from walking away with a frown. He led her to the garden. There was no one around to listen in on them.
She had an idea what he wanted to talk about. She took a deep breath and smiled faintly. “What is it?”
“Do you plan to use the banished empress?” Nan Xun asked bluntly.
Surprise flashed through Jun Huang’s eyes. She didn’t expect Nan Xun to figure out her plan so quickly. She hadn’t intended to hide the information from him though. Since he’d already made the right guess, she admitted to her plan with a nod.
“I want the third prince to be the one to tell the emperor, but we are on the surface loyal to Qi Chen. If we give the third prince the information, we risk exposing ourselves. The banished empress is the next best option.”
Jun Huang explained calmly, trying to convince Nan Xun. He kept his eyebrows knitted. He believed it was too risky. No one knew for sure whose side the empress was on.
Jun Huang knew he wouldn’t stop worrying if she didn’t do anything to assure him. She patted his arm. “You know that I don’t do anything without thinking it through. I’m not meeting the empress personally. I just want to prompt her into spreading the information. I promise you I’ll never show myself.”
He was still concerned, but he was weak to Jun Huang’s bright eyes. He nodded in the end and asked her to be careful.
Jun Huang thought about how she should go about her plan. She didn’t need to visit the empress herself.
It was late at night when Rou’er received Jun Huang’s message. Qi Chen had said that he was going to come to her room to listen to her perform, but he hadn’t showed up even after the sky was filled with stars.
The House of Heavenly Fiends sent in the letter secretly. Fortunately her building was now stationed with only her own people. She checked the letter when she was alone.
The letter said that Jun Huang had something important to talk to her about. Rou’er worried that it was an urgent matter. She didn’t want to make Jun Huang wait. There was no telling if Qi Chen would come visit, though. After agonizing for some time, she ordered a man to stay at the door and changed into black clothes. She vaulted over the wall and made her way to Jun Huang’s manor.
Jun Huang had been waiting. Without spending the time to greet her, Jun Huang led her into the manor. Jun Huang only relaxed after they reached the study.
“What’s the matter,” Rou’er asked worriedly. “Is there an emergency? Or has something happened to the prince?”
Jun Huang shook her head with a smile at Rou’er’s worried expression. “The prince is fine. You know that.”
Rou’er blushed. She did pay extra attention to everything about Qi Yun. She knew he was safe. But Jun Huang’s sudden invitation had made her worry that perhaps Qi Yun was in danger without her knowing.
Jun Huang didn’t waste her time chatting with Rou’er. “You must know what had happened in the court. If Qi Chen solidifies his presence, it’ll be difficult to knock him down. You’re the one candidate I settled on after careful deliberation. Please find your way to the palace tomorrow with a few maids...”
Rou’er listened quietly to Jun Huang’s instructions and memorized them. Once Jun Huang was done, she asked, “How does the gentleman know the empress will make a move after hearing the conversation we stage?”
Jun Huang chuckled and looked up at the sky. “The empress doesn’t have any power now, but she’s not to be underestimated. After all, she’d been the emperor’s favorite for many years, and she’d become his principal wife. For her son, She’ll do anything to set Qi Chen up for failure.”
Rou’er was still puzzled. “What if she tells the emperor directly?”
“She won’t. She’s careful, and as a banished empress, she no longer has the same influence. Even though she hates Qi Chen, she knows that setting Qi Chen up is only revenge for herself and her son. She’ll still be stuck in the Cold Palace. She needs help, which will be the third prince.”
Jun Huang’s tone was confident. She had always been persuasive. Rou’er agreed with her analysis. She nodded without asking any more questions and left in a hurry.
When Rou’er returned to the manor, Qi Chen was drinking tea in the garden. Her heart skipped a beat. Before she could go up to him, her personal maid stopped her.
“What’s going on?” asked Rou’er.
“Don’t worry, Lady Rou’er,” said the maid. “The prince thought that you were taking a bath.”
Rou’er sighed in relief. She entered the room through the rear window. The maid had retrieved some petals. She entered the smoke-filled room under Qi Chen’s gaze and saw Rou’er sitting naked in the wooden bathtub. The maid put the petals into the water and looked outside. “The prince came not long ago. He didn’t know you’ve been outside. Lady Rou’er should stick to that story.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Rou'er finally got something to do...Does anyone remember Wei Qian? Because I don't think the author does :p