The shadow guard listened to Prince Duan’s explanation and concluded that the prince was right. “Your Highness is wise. However, this subordinate doesn’t think it’ll be a good idea to keep the prince hidden away. It’s better to find a way to earn the emperor’s forgiveness. Even if the prince can’t be restored to his original status, it’ll be good enough for him to be pardoned for his crime.”
Prince Duan considered that for a moment before making a dismissive gesture. “It’s easier said than done. Staging a coup is a great offense. He was jailed even though the emperor has been merciful as his father. Qi Chen’s been doing nothing but wasting his life these days. The failure has struck a strong blow on his ego. He can’t face the music, which is his biggest failure. Even a strong man can only succeed by overcoming setbacks and challenges.”
The shadow guard fell silent. Prince Duan’s words were blunt, but true. The key was Qi Chen. He had to pick himself up before their plan could proceed.
“Alright, I’ve checked the letter. It contains nothing but sappy confessions. Take this and send it again. Remember not to let anyone notice anything wrong.”
Prince Duan changed the subject. There was no use criticizing Qi Chen behind his back. He just had troubles reconciling with his change.
Only after the guard left with the letter did Qi Chen walk out from the shadow, staring at the guard with a dark expression. He then turned to the door leading to the study without a word.
He knew Prince Duan was disappointed in him. He heard everything the imperial prince had said, which made his resentment grow fonder.
He both hated Jun Huang for destroying his life and missed her for the the assistance and kindness she’d given him. She often appeared in his dreams with a faint smile on her face.
Sometimes he wanted nothing but to kill Jun Huang with his own hands, but at the same time he had a feeling he’d regret it. He thought back to when he had her as his captive. He’d been blinded by hatred and almost strangled her. It wouldn’t end well if Nan Xun hadn’t arrived in time.
When he was alone, he often thought about what’d happen. His entire body would tremble, including his fingers. That was why he drowned himself in alcohol every day, hoping to make himself forget about the conundrums of the mortal world.
But he shouldn’t forget.
He could’ve given up on everything and just left, but he was unwilling to do so due to the desire for revenge. In the end, it became an obsession he couldn’t let go of.
He huffed out a silent laugh. His eyes stung. The corner of his eye was damp when he touched it. He took a deep breath and wiped away his tears, pretending that nothing had happened as he wobbled away.
Rou’er frowned when Qi Chen returned smelling like alcohol, but she quickly masked her emotions. She ordered a servant to prepare some sobering tea and went up to support Qi Chen’s weight.
He narrowed his eyes at her with a hiccup before grabbing her wrist, scoffing. “They all left. Why are you still here?”
Rou’er blinked at him. She didn’t expect the question, and she didn’t have an answer. She didn’t stay because she wanted to, but because someone had to keep an eye on him.
A teenaged boy from the House of Heavenly Fiends delivered the letter to Jun Huang. His enthusiastic nature made Jun Huang take an instant liking to the boy, seeing her brother in him.
“Why was it delivered so quickly?” Jun Huang glanced at the letter but didn’t read it.
The boy thought for a moment. “I hear that Prince Nan wanted the letter to be delivered sooner, so he had it sent through a pigeon instead of a messenger. The pigeon must have felt his yearning as well. It made the delivery even though it was hurt.”
He grinned. Jun Huang jerked up to look at him and confirmed that the pigeon really had been hurt. She didn’t think it was a trivial matter. She put away the letter and had the boy take her to their operation base.
She met up with the head of the base, who took her to the pigeon house in the backyard upon hearing her suspicion. He then had their bird keeper grab the pigeon that just arrived from Northern Qi.
Jun Huang extended a hand. The pigeon crooked and jumped onto her arm. It didn’t seem to have been swapped.
Seeing Jun Huang’s worry, the older man said, “Don’t worry. We’re hidden away and only our pigeons can find their way to us. They can’t be swapped.”
Jun Huang nodded and looked up at the bird keeper. She pointed at the pigeon’s wing. “Have you seen this?”
The man took a closer look and realized that the flesh behind the feathers was festering. He jumped and shook his head. He hadn’t noticed the severity of the wound.
Jun Huang thought for a moment and inserted a silver needle into the flesh. When she pulled it out, it’d turned black. Everyone present was shocked and confused.
“I always put a powder without color or smell on letters I send to Nan Xun. Only those who know where to look can see it. If someone uninformed tampers with the letter, I’ll notice immediately. I assumed the powder was rubbed away when the letter was delivered, but it was sent through a pigeon. It’s odd, isn’t it? Messenger pigeons tend to fly off whenever dangers strike. This one somehow managed to return despite its injury. How curious.”
“I suspected foul play, and it turns out I’m right. The pigeon was hit by an arrow. Whoever it was has treated the wing, but they used potent medicine to make sure the bird could make it back. That’s why the injury is festering.”
Jun Huang laid down the facts in a paced tone. The group were shocked. This could have serious implications.
The old man didn’t say anything until after a while. “Who does the gentleman think intercepted the letter?”
“Prince Duan,” Jun Huang said without hesitation.
“If it’s anyone else, they won’t send the letter again after intercepting it,” she said calmly even with everyone’s eyes directed at her. “Prince Duan, however, would try to cover up his action if there was nothing important in the letter. We may overlook the signs if we weren’t careful. Among out current enemies, he is the only one who is shrewd enough to do that.”
After a long pause, she looked up and waved a hand in the air. “Don’t fret. Neither Nan Xun nor I are fools. Prince Duan wouldn’t understand what we were writing even if he’s read our letter. I’ll like to see what he’s going to do next.”
She smiled and walked away.
Once she returned to her room, she took out Nan Xun’s letter and read carefully. Prince Duan didn’t know how to interpret Nan Xun’s writing, but she did. She understood what he meant readily.
She was glad that Nan Xun still had her revenge in mind and was waiting for the right time, but she’d like to deal with Eastern Wu’s emperor herself and avenge the lives lost in the invasion.
She twisted and turned, but sleep eluded her. She lay on the bed thinking back to her past. A long time had passed. She’d been riddled with illnesses and lacked the strength to do anything lately. Things she should have done were put aside. She sighed and forced herself to stop thinking herself into a corner.
The day had broken when she finally fell asleep. Her eyelashes fluttered slightly. Her sleep wasn’t a restful one.
She had a dream. A dream that couldn’t exactly be called a nightmare. Still, her clothes were drenched when she woke up. She slowly exhaled and propped herself up, rubbing at her throbbing forehead. She then washed up and left her room.
After greeting her master, she grabbed something to eat and went straight to the study. She thought for a moment before writing another letter to Nan Xun, telling him about her thoughts. To make sure no one could understand her true meaning even if they intercepted the letter, she hid her message between the lines like Nan Xun had done.
This time, the House of Heavenly Fiends was more careful. Sending letters through pigeons was quick, but unsafe. It’d be bad if the same thing happened again. They therefore opted to deliver the letter through a messenger.
Nan Xun was delighted when he received the letter. This was the only way for him to express his longing for Jun Huang. If there weren’t any letters for some time, he’d be compelled to go to her side and never let go of her. He knew it was a little unreasonable of him, but that was how he felt, and he wasn’t ashamed of it.
His heart softened when he saw her graceful handwriting, his lips curved into a small smile. Before he could read it, though, someone knocked on the door.
“What is it?” He got the door with a frown. It was one of his servants.
“Your Highness, your second in command is waiting for you in the main hall,” the servant responded respectfully. “He said it was something important.‘Previous Chapter Next Chapter