Chapter 13: Schemes
With such a prominent event as a prince being poisoned, the royal hunt was naturally cancelled. The emperor took the second prince into the palace, and Jun Huang retreated back to the Prince Chen Manor, seeing that her work was done.
Midday, the palace.
“Trash! It’s been six hours, why is Chen’er still not awake!” Qi Qiang swept his arm across the table, sending the tea cup on the table crashing to the floor.
“Mercy, Your Majesty! Prince Chen has fallen victim to an unknown poison, and we are all doing our best!” Various doctors kowtowed on the ground for mercy, their bodies unable to stop shaking.
“You cannot even save Our son! What use do We have for you?!” Qi Qiang simply burned with fury. A poisonous viper had suddenly appeared as they were hunting, and if it hadn’t been for Qi Chen desperately protecting the emperor, it would likely be Qi Qiang lying comatose on the bed right now.
“Your Majesty, the third prince is outside of the hall requesting an audience.” An eunuch had swiftly trotted in to make this quiet report, afraid of disturbing the emperor.
“And what is he here for when Chen’er lies in a coma?! I won’t see him!” The emperor immediately declined this request for an audience, given how irritated he was.
“Your Majesty, the third prince says he possesses medicine that can save Prince Chen.” Although the eunuch was afraid, he still delivered the message.
“What kind of medicine can he have?” Although the emperor spoke dismissive words, he still let Qi Yun in.
“Greetings to my royal father.” Qi Yun didn’t dally and immediately offered up the pill. “Royal father, your son has been plagued with illnesses for many years and so often keeps many medicines about me. I happened to have a pill that can cure numerous poisons, and have come to offer it when I heard of second royal brother being poisoned.”
“You have put forth much effort.” Qi Jiang nodded and gestured for the eunuch to accept the pill from Qi Yun. The eunuch fed it to Qi Chen with the aid of a glass of water. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Qi Chen, looking for any signs of his condition’s improvement. His pale complexion started to show hints of rosiness after less than fifteen minutes. It was apparent that the pill was having an effect. The eyes of the assembled lit up, and the emperor commanded sternly, “Imperial doctor!”
A doctor swiftly strode up to take Qi Chen’s pulse, and a hint of joy floated onto his face. “Your Majesty, the poison within Prince Chen’s body has been eliminated, and he will awaken within the hour!”
“Very good!” The emperor was immensely pleased. “Yun’er has rendered a service of great merit in saving your brother! I must reward you handsomely. Speak of anything you want!”
Qi Yun shook his head. “Royal father, it is but my duty to save my second royal brother. Your son asks for no favor. Since second royal brother is now out of danger, then I will take my leave.”
“It turns out that you’re the most mature of all!” The emperor indeed looked at Qi Yun with satisfied eyes when he heard his son’s reply. “However, the rewards shall not be stinted. Come, reward the third prince with a thousand taels of golden beads and a hundred bolts of silk!”
Qi Yun didn’t continue to turn the honors down and knelt down to express his thanks, “Many thanks to my royal father!”
The Prince Chen Manor.
Qi Chen returned in full glory when it was almost dusk. “Sir Feng possesses great schemes alright! My royal father has heavily rewarded this prince and various courtiers have all begun seeking my favor. This is all due to Sir Feng!” Qi Chen immediately laughed heartily after setting foot inside his doors.
Jun Huang rose to tender her felicitations. “Congratulations to Your Highness.”
“There’s no need to stand on so much ceremony, you will be an honored guest of the Prince Chen Manor from now on!” Qi Chen helped Jun Huang to her feet and spoke grandly.
“Your Highness, please keep in mind that this is just a beginning. The Crown Prince still reigns supreme in the imperial court, so Your Highness must remember to keep your light under wraps,” Jun Huang offered the following reminder.
“The gentleman speaks truly, I am getting ahead of myself.” Qi Chen brought his jubilation under control. “What plans might the gentleman have afterwards?”
Jun Huang had long since anticipated Qi Chen’s question. “Although Your Highness has earned the emperor’s favor today, your chance will remain forever extinguished as long as the crown prince remains in the picture.”
“Then the gentleman means to say…?”
“Now that Your Highness has found favor, the crown prince will certainly be put out. With his arrogant and sinful lifestyle, he will certainly seek comfort in the pleasure district.” Jun Huang’s lips curved into a smile as she bent towards Prince Chen’s ear and continued in a low voice, “When that happens, all we need to do is…”
Qi Chen’s eyes lit up when he heard Jun Huang’s new plan. He immediately applauded loudly, “This is a marvelous plan, and I leave it all in your hands! If you are able to help me gain the throne, rest assured, I will not mistreat you!”
Jun Huang backed up a step to make a bow, “This commoner will not maltreat Your Highness’ trust!”
Prince Nan Manor.
“You say that Feng Baiyu sought out Third Prince Qi Yun today as well?” Nan Xun lightly set down the teacup in his hand, his tone unfathomable.
“Yes, master.” Wuqing responded, his head still bowed.
Nan Xun was silent for a moment as a hint of a smile slowly floated up in his eyes. She is the fire phoenix of Western Que alright. Her plans and schemes are on a completely different level. She appeared on the surface to be Prince Chen’s strategist, but in reality she wished to advise third prince Qi Yun. With her by the second prince’s side, the second prince and crown prince would fight each other to the death like a snipe and clam locked in combat, whereas the third prince would be the fisherman benefiting off to the side. She’d been in the Qi capital for a mere three days, but had already surprised him so many times. He could hardly contain his curiosity and wonder what Jun Huang would do next.
“Send a few more men and make sure to protect her well.” Nan Xun ordered, “Remember, do not appear unless her life is in danger.”
Northern Qi had been stuck in a quagmire for far too long. The arrival of the Western Que princess might very well be the catalytic piece that throws the chessboard into disarray.
Qi Capital, Ladies of the Lake. 1
Ladies of the Lake was Qi capital’s largest brothel. Each of the ladies inside were alluring in their own way, and stunning to behold. Many royals and courtiers liked to drink a cup or two here, but the most important fact to note was that this was Qi Yin’s favorite haunt.
Jun Huang sat, lackadaisical as ever, in front of the window, flawlessly engaging the officials at her table in conversation whilst keeping an idle eye on the front door. Now that the second prince had found great royal favor, anyone at court with the slightest presence of mind had started making overtures to the second prince. As Prince Chen’s only strategist, it wasn’t too difficult for Feng Baiyu to arrange for a meeting with some officials. She didn’t have to wait long to see Crown Prince Qi Yin walk through the front doors.
He didn’t have the best expression on his face, and was immediately surrounded by swirling silks and simpering voices when he entered. Within a few steps, he had his arm flung around two different girls and was kissing both of them lasciviously as he eagerly walked towards his room. When Jun Huang took a close look at the girl in light-green next to Qi Yin, her lips slowly curled up in a smile. He can smile all he’d like now, there will be plenty to cry about later.
“Sir Feng? Sir Feng?” Lord Li called out to Jun Huang several times after receiving no response.
Jun Huang came back to herself and raised her hands in apology. “Gentlemen, I seem to have recognized someone just now. Please excuse me for a moment and record all expenditures on my account tonight. Please enjoy yourselves.”
“Sir Feng is being too polite. Please go about your business, there’s no need to think further of us.” The table chorused back at her.
After leaving the room, Jun Huang leaned against the door and finally ambled next door when she judged enough time had passed. She’d used the second prince’s name in inviting the officials to dinner tonight and had naturally picked the closest room to Qi Yin’s accustomed one. She had to provide the audience the best seats after all!
- The original raws for this was a representative name for the province Hunan, the area named for being “south of the lake”. I exercised some translator largesse here and took the renaming a bit further, given the type of establishment we’re dealing with. ↩