The emperor calmed down somewhat after venting his anger, the sight of Qi Chen still dampened his mood. He waved a hand to dismiss him. “Go. I won’t let you off the hook if this happens again.”
“This son will take my leave.” Qi Chen walked away with his eyes lowered, frustration soaring in his heart. What bad luck he was plagued with lately!
He returned to his manor in rage and was met with the housekeeper’s nervous face. His eyes twitched. What was it again? He went up to the housekeeper.
“What’s wrong?” asked Qi Chen.
The housekeeper was clutching a letter in his hand, his expression hesitant. Qi Chen seized the letter impatiently. His expression turned sour when he recognized the handwriting.
He looked around to make sure they were alone and took a deep breath to keep his rage from bursting out. He stormed inside with the housekeeper at his tail and demanded, “What the hell is this?”
The housekeeper was upset by the news as well. His mood took a further downturn when Qi Chen vented his anger on him. “The servants found it when they were cleaning.”
Qi Chen narrowed his eyes and carefully read the letter. It was written by Nan Guyue. The accusations she made turned his face a furious red. He growled.
“What does Your Highness plan to do? The princess has put us in a difficult place. There’s no precedent for women to divorce their husbands! If the news get out, Your Highness’ reputation will be damaged...”
“I know already” Qi Chen said coldly. “But what else can I do? She told me that she was going to the temple last light. She must have departed for her home country already. It’s too late for us to do anything.”
The housekeeper fell silent. This was a tricky issue. Nan Guyue had left a divorce letter and went away, which was an insult to Qi Chen, but there wasn’t anything they could do to her. She was the princess of Southern Mu after all. It wasn’t a good time to clash with the neighboring country. They could only swallow the bitter taste in their mouths.
“Should we try intercepting the princess?” suggested the housekeeper. “Perhaps she’s still within Northern Qi.”
Qi Chen scoffed and threw the housekeeper a glance. The housekeeper shut his mouth.
“What do we do after we stop her? Do you want her to announce to the world she’s divorcing me?”
The housekeeper didn’t dare make a sound. Even his breaths sounded too offensive in the silent room. Qi Chen narrowed his eyes. He’d just been scolded by the emperor, and now this.
Malicious thoughts took root in his mind. He wanted to make her regret her decision. “Since she thinks I’m incompetent, I’ll do something to make her regret her action.”
“What does Your Highness plan to do?” the housekeeper asked with his brows furrowed.
Qi Chen sneered and told the housekeeper to inform Prince Duan and ask him to come. Qi Chen himself wouldn’t be able to explain what’d happened. He was still reeling from the princess’s sudden departure.
The housekeeper wanted to offer him comfort, but Qi Chen’s eyes were too cold. He worried that he might anger Qi Chen with a careless remark. He went off to find Prince Duan immediately.
Prince Duan was surprised to hear what happened. He went to the manor without delay and saw Qi Chen staring into the distance with a scowl, his thoughts indiscernible. Prince Duan sat before him with a sigh. “I’ve heard. Don’t dwell on it too much. There are many women in the world. Nan Guyue isn’t anyone special. If Southern Mu weren’t her support, she’d be of no value for you. Let her leave.”
Qi Chen laughed coldly and looked up at Prince Duan. “That’s not why I ask you to come,” he said through gritted teeth. “I have a plan.”
“To take a sword to the throne.”
Prince Duan widened his eyes. He didn’t expect that. Qi Chen was the crown prince. The throne was right within his reach. It’d be unwise for him to force the the emperor to surrender his power. But he knew Qi Chen must have a reason. He waited for him to explain.
“His Majesty’s thinking about evoking my title. If I do nothing, he’ll make someone else the crown prince once he recovers. Why should I care about our relationship then? What I have to consider is how likely I’m going to succeed if I stage a coup now.”
Prince Duan was quiet for a moment. Qi Chen did make some good points. “What do you think? What’s your chance of success?”
“Nan Xun is close to Feng Baiyu, who is my confidante. Even if Nan Xun isn’t going to help, he won’t intervene either. I have my own people in the royal army. They can easily let me into the palace.”
“The third prince is useless, and he’s imprisoned. Qi Yun hasn’t made a name for himself. He’ll be begging me to let him live. The other princes are all gutless. No one can stop me.”
Qi Chen had gone through all the potential threats and concluded that he had nothing to fear.
Prince Duan remained silent. He was still contemplating if there were other people they should watch out for. Although Qi Chen made some good points, staging a coup was a drastic measure they must think long and hard about.
Qi Chen didn’t want to wait. He believed that Prince Duan was overly cautious. However, it’d be inappropriate to dismiss his biggest supporter. He thought for a moment and nodded, promising Prince Duan that he’d wait.
As soon as Prince Duan left, though, Qi Chen scoffed and went off to make the necessary arrangements. He sent for the leader of the royal guard.
When Jun Huang arrived at the manor, the captain of the royal guard was talking to Qi Chen. She had a feeling that something big was going to happen.
“What’s troubling Your Highness?” asked Jun Huang.
Qi Chen hadn’t planned to tell Jun Huang. Not because he didn’t trust her, no. He just didn’t deem it necessary. He might need Nan Xun’s help when the time came, though, he realized suddenly. He told her his plan.
She kept her expression calm while her brain went into overdrive. She didn’t expect Qi Chen to go to such distance, but it wasn’t that surprising when she thought about it. She nodded. “If so, I’ll talk to Nan Xun and have him give us some leeway. Even if he isn’t going to help, he should stay out of Your Highness’s plan.”
Qi Chen sighed in relief. With Nan Xun out of the picture, his victory was a guarantee.
Jun Huang was preoccupied on her way back to her manor. Nan Xun spotted her from afar when he returned from the training ground. He frowned when she didn’t notice him. Something was wrong. He grabbed her arm.
She reflexively attacked with her other hand, but her heart was elsewhere. Her arm was easily seized. She tried and failed to break out of his hold.
She turned around and relaxed when she saw that it was Nan Xun. “What is Your Highness doing? This isn’t appropriate behavior in public. If someone sees us, it’ll be bad for your image.”
Nan Xun chuckled. He could tell she was teasing him, which alleviated his concern. He let go of her and looked around. “You didn’t hear me when I called out for you, and you reacted slowly when I grabbed you. What happened?”
“I need to talk to you,” she said seriously. Nan Xun knew she must have something serious to tell him. He nodded and went to her manor quickly.
Once inside, Jun Huang dismissed the servants and said bluntly, “Qi Chen’s staging a coup.”
Nan Xun almost spat out the tea he’d just drunk. He steadied himself and met her eyes. She wasn’t joking, not at all. He realized the gravity of the matter.
“I’ll enter the palace and tell the emperor.” Nan Xun shot up to his feet.
Jun Huang grabbed his hand and shook her head. “You can’t.”
“Qi Chen said he was staging a coup, but he hasn’t done anything yet. What do you think the emperor will think if we tell him now? There must be someone loyal to Qi Chen at the emperor’s side. What if Qi Chen changes his plan because of that? The emperor will suspect you of trying to drive a wedge between him and his son, and I’ll be exposed as well. That’ll be detrimental to our cause. We might as well let his plan play out. You should prepare for the day in secret. Don’t let anyone know. Let Qi Chen enter the palace and approach the emperor himself.”
“No but,” Jun Huang said after taking a deep breath. “That’s the only way. The emperor is mistrustful. If we tell him now, he may order to have Qi Chen arrested. Qi Chen will claim to be innocent and turn things against us. We’ll be making him a bigger threat rather than taking him out. We must let him expose himself.”
Nan Xun understood her point. He found the plan to be risky, but it was the best option they had. All the alternatives could alert their enemies. He took his leave and went off to make the necessary arrangements.
Qi Chen believed that he was ready. He and his confidantes had formulated a detailed plan in his study and decided on a time. They’d get what they wanted on the fifteenth of the month.
The fateful day came. Full moon hung in the sky. Everyone gathered inside the crown prince’s manor. Qi Chen was drinking in his garden. His future would be determined today. There was a whirlwind of emotions under his calm facade.
Rou’er frowned slightly and left when no one was watching.
She went straight to Jun Huang’s place. They didn’t do unannounced visits. She’d caught Jun Huang off guard by coming without warning. Jun Huang frowned and took her straight to the study. Rou’er must have something important to tell her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter