Chapter 253: Intention

“This official has something to talk to Your Majesty about,” Prince Duan said with feign hesitance, his eyes fixed on the emperor.

The emperor looked at him, then at Qi Yun. Qi Yun put aside his report and rose to leave, but Prince Duan stopped him. “Please stay. What I’m going to say has something to do with Your Highness.”

Qi Yun stilled. He wondered what Prince Duan wanted. He went back to his seat and waited for him to continue.

Prince Duan chuckled. “I happened to run into Wan’er on my way here. It’s a surprise that she’s gotten pregnant. Motherhood suits her. That reminded me that Nan Xun and Qi Yun don’t have any women in their manors yet. I’d like to ask Your Majesty to gift them with a few beautiful women to pass down their bloodline.”

The emperor frowned. “It won’t do. Nan Xun and Feng Baiyu have feelings for each other. Neither are interested in women.”

“This official has heard about their relationship, but following their desires is one thing. They have to settle down one day even if it’s against their will. It’s tradition that a man should pass down his legacy. They aren’t going to not have children, are they? They may not care about that now, but in a few years, once their friends get married and have children, they’ll want the same thing as well.”

“We live in this world for only a few decades. It’ll be a shame to waste time. I’m not saying that they should split up, but they must have children. Even if they aren’t going to marry a wife, they need a serving concubine.”

“Qi Yun has also reached the age for marriage. Even if he doesn’t want to get married yet, there should be someone taking care of his needs in his manor.”

Prince Duan presented his arguments clearly and logically. The emperor was swayed.

Qi Yun wanted to say no, but Prince Duan didn’t give him a chance. “This official knows that the emperor hasn’t been feeling well, so I volunteer to pick a couple women for the two princes and the gentleman. Rest assured, Your Majesty, that I’ll pick the rarest beauty.”

The emperor nodded after a pause. “Then I’ll leave it in your hand.”

“Understood. Please excuse me.” Prince Duan knelt down and bowed to the emperor before walking away.

Qi Yun swallowed down the objections threatening to fall out of his mouth. What the hell did Prince Duan want?

The emperor threw a glance at him. “What? Do you have anything against the idea??”

Qi Yun hurriedly shook his head. “Royal Father has misunderstood. This son is more than happy about the offer. I’d like to express my gratitude to Royal Father.”

Night fell. Lamps were lit all around the city. Jun Huang and Nan Xun decided to return. They ran into Little Girl on their way. She said there was something in the manor that required Jun Huang’s attention. Jun Huang thought for a moment before telling Nan Xun that she’d like to go back to her place to check. Nan Xun was going to follow her, but a servant from his manor came to find him as well. They had no clue about what had happened. At Jun Huang’s suggestion, they parted and returned to their respective homes.

As soon as Jun Huang entered her manor, she saw a woman with delicate features standing at the center of the main hall. Her eyebrows slanted along her contour and her eyes glinted with tender light. The layered dress she wore made her look even more stunning. The warm glow of the candlelight added a surreal quality to her. If Jun Huang had been a man, she may have fallen for a woman like her.

The woman spotted Jun Huang from a distance. She walked up to Jun Huang with a faint smile. The dangling ornament in her hair clinked and her dress waved gently as she walked. She was indeed a rare beauty.

“Who are you?” Jun Huang asked with her brows furrowed.

The woman didn’t say anything. The young eunuch accompanying her woke up from his short rest and widened his eyes when he saw Jun Huang. The gentleman was even more beautiful than the woman!

He shook his head and sighed inwardly. What a shame that Feng Baiyu was born a man.

Jun Huang waited for him to explain with a serious expression. The eunuch cleared his throat to mask his embarrassment and took out a decree. “With the heaven as witness, His Majesty has decreed that Feng Baiyu, a man of integrity… is to be gifted with a woman to serve at his side and bear his child.”

Jun Huang was stunned. She didn’t expect the emperor to do this. She took the decree from the eunuch and read it over again. For a long moment, she didn’t say anything.

She glanced at the woman and ordered Little Girl to take her to the east wing. Then she personally walked the eunuch out.

On their way to the door, Jun Huang wondered how she should justify sending the woman away. The young eunuch interrupted her train of thoughts when he said, “Prince Duan complimented Gentleman Feng for your good look when he made the proposal to the emperor. He said that he’d have to find someone who could match you. This servant has thought it was an exaggeration, but Gentleman Feng turns out to be more handsome than I expected. Even the woman pales in comparison to the gentleman.”

Jun Huang could tell a flatter when she heard one. She paid attention only to the part that the woman had been handpicked by Prince Duan. Once the eunuch left, she convened a meeting with her confidantes.

“Have more people stationed in the east wing,” Jun Huang said coolly. “Keep a close eye on her. Since she’s entered my manor, I won’t let her leave easily. No matter what she does, it has to be approved by me. Understand?”

The guards went off to make the arrangements. Jun Huang decided to go find Nan Xun. Someone must have been sent to his manor as well.

No sooner had she approached his manor than she heard Nan Xun’s cold voice. She entered the main hall and saw a woman as beautiful as the one sent to her manor clinging to Nan Xun.

Nan Xun spotted Jun Huang right away. With a scowl, he brushed the woman aside and snapped, “Know your place! Follow the servant to where you’ll be staying. Without permission, you’re not allowed to even walk out of the building.”

The woman fell silent. She had no choice but to leave. She threw Jun Huang a leer when she walked past her, her gaze almost a physical force that made Jun Huang’s hair stand on end.

“Prince Duan is indeed considerate,” Jun Huang joked, smothering a smile.

Nan Xun looked at her in confusion. Her smile widened. “Haven’t you heard the talk on the street about you? It’s said that Prince Nan had been alone for a long time and must like women who are more proactive in matters of the heart.”

“Tease,” Nan Xun muttered.

Jun Huang’s expression turned serious. “Prince Duan must be plotting something. They are no ordinary women. I just can’t be sure what exactly his intention is.”

Nan Xun had some idea. Jun Huang hadn’t thought of the possibility because in the end, she was a princess who had been kept away from the outside world for a long time. There were things he’d heard that she hadn’t.

At the border, soldiers often talked about what had happened in the court and the nation at large throughout history. He therefore had a better grasp on how a man seeking power thought.

“I believe that the women may be spies from Eastern Wu,” said Nan Xun. “They’re not only a nuisance, but also informants. What’s more, he may use the women as proof to accuse us of treason in the future.”

Jun Huang thought for a moment. He had a point, but there seemed to be something more to it. She couldn’t quite put a finger on it. She shook her head and took a moment to formulate her thoughts.

“First, he knew we weren’t interested in those women. He wanted to see if we’d turn them away. In truth, we never have a choice. The emperor will be unhappy if we turn the women away.”

“Second, Prince Duan wanted the women to infiltrate our manors and help him find our weaknesses. They’ll serve as his eyes and be put to use when the time comes.”

“Third, the women are likely to be from Eastern Wu. Once we become a big enough threat to him, he’s likely to expose the women and put the blame on us, accusing us of selling out Northern Qi.”

“If the aforementioned speculations are true, Prince Duan must be in cahoot with Eastern Wu.”

Nan Xun nodded in agreement. Jun Huang became more convinced of her theory once she laid it out. A shudder ran down her spine as she thought about Prince Duan. What a shrewd man. He’d planned several moves ahead.

Seeing the concerned look on her face, Nan Xun patted her shoulder comfortingly. “We aren’t sure about that yet. Don’t worry too much. We’ll be on guard.”

Jun Huang nodded after glancing at Nan Xun. Only by observing the women would they be able to discover Prince Duan’s true intention.

Nan Xun could tell she was preoccupied. He took her hand. He was going to say that he had no feelings for the woman sent to his manor, but before he did, the servants announced Qi Yun’s arrival. They exchanged a glance.

Jun Huang pulled her hand out and schooled her expression into an aloof mask. Once Qi Yun came, she asked if the same thing had happened to him.

Qi Yun nodded and told them what happened in the palace. Jun Huang didn’t comment on it.

“This must be the surprise Prince Duan mentioned,” said Nan Xun. “We aren’t sure what his plan is yet. We’ll have to cross the bridge when we come to it. However, all of us should keep a close eye on the women he sent. It’s best to assign some men to follow them. We must not allow them to cause any troubles.”

Jun Huang and Qi Yun nodded in agreement. They’d ordered their people to watch the women in their manors. Nothing should go wrong as long as no accidents happened.

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houseau3's Thoughts

You get a woman! You get a woman too! Everybody gets a woman!

...what a weird time and place to be alive. It feels like the emperor has been doing nothing but trying (and sometimes failing) to arrange marriage and hooking people up.