Chapter 28: Winds of Trouble Rise
Jun Huang understood why Qi Chen was so happy. Princes couldn’t freely enter and leave the palace without the emperor’s decree, so this was an honor. Not to mention that Qi Chen had resolved a pressing matter for the emperor lately, so they would definitely make a big deal out of it all.
The sun had fully emerged in the sky, marking mid morning. Qi Chen left the manor with a large entourage, heading for the palace in a carriage. He arrived quite early, and so ended up waiting outside with a gaggle of officials. He snorted derisively when he saw the Senior Grandmaster again. He doesn’t treat me with the proper respect! His ire from yesterday started to rise once more. Qi Chen really wanted to give the old official a hearty kick after seeing his face.
The Senior Grandmaster didn’t dare say a word to the prince. He was cowering in a corner, holding his breath and deathly afraid that Qi Chen would come find him again. However, to be entirely honest, he was feeling quite aggrieved about the entire situation. He wasn’t the only one who’d left Qi Chen, but he’d been the only one who’d been caught. This situation was an utter tragedy.
Nan Xun held an important position at court and thus attended every court session. He struck a striking figure in court robes, and the intimidating aura that emanated from his body instantly commanded respect from all those present. His eagles eyes swept over the assembly, and anyone hiding secrets all involuntarily shrank into themselves, not daring to meet his eyes.
“Court convenes.” A eunuch had walked to the doors of the hall before the subtle ebbs and flows of the situation could erupt into the open. He announced the beginning of morning court in a shrill voice and had everyone enter.
Morning court consisted of the usual trifling and miscellaneous matters. Many officials knew of Qi Chen embezzling the relief funds, but they also knew that the second prince currently enjoyed great favor in front of the emperor. Therefore, all of them bit their tongues on what they truly wanted to speak of and cooperated to conceal the matter. When all business had been attended to, the emperor looked at Qi Chen standing amongst the officials with a gratified smile. He cast a glance at a eunuch next to him, prompting the eunuch to unfurl the imperial decree in his hands.
The eunuch cleared his throat before announcing, “The second prince was fearless in the face of hardship and handled disaster relief in an exemplary manner at the border, resulting in love and adoration from the people. We hereby bestow upon second prince Qi Chen a pair of ceremonial jade scepters and a thousand silver ingots…”.
Everyone looked at each other, speechless. Some even started feverish whispered discussions. They all felt that Qi Chen didn’t deserve an honor like that, but they didn’t dare voice their thoughts.
“And just what capabilities does this second prince have? If the emperor conducted a thorough investigation, he’d easily find that the prince had embezzled funds.” The Senior Grandmaster snorted derisively and spoke in a soft tone to a nearby colleague.
“Does the Senior Grandmaster not realize that disaster stems from one’s words? Or have you forgotten the events of last night?” Qi Yun, also attending court, shook his head with a smile.
The official gave an immense start as sweat started to bead on his forehead again. He looked guiltily over in Qi Chen’s direction, only to see the prince proudly displaying the jade scepters. He hadn’t noticed the muttering from the corner. The old man heaved a sigh of relief and subtly cupped his fists at Qi Yun. “Many thanks for the fourth prince’s reminder. I will remember this well.”
Qi Yun merely smiled and took a look at his royal father, seated on his lofty throne. He silently exited the hall as he fanned himself with his hand fan.
After morning court, Qi Chen led the servants bearing the emperor’s gifts to his manor. On the way, he happened to run into Jun Huang. Jun Huang was returning from a trip outside with Wei Qian, and cupped her hands in greeting when she saw Qi Chen. “Congratulations to Your Highness, I heard about what happened today.” Jun Huang smiled.
Qi Chen was in excellent spirits and didn’t ask where Jun Huang had been. He just pulled her into the garden and excitedly shared with her the compliments he’d received, as well as the gratified smile on his father’s face this morning. Qi Chen had never experienced these simple delights between father and son, and he even seemed to tear up a little as he spoke of them. Jun Huang felt pity for Qi Chen as she listened to him describe his happiness, but felt even more so that those who invoke pity also have aspects to them that attract hate.
“The crown prince has thoroughly broken father’s heart these days, and he must be thinking that the crown prince is inferior to me. I only need to show father more of my positive aspects now and I’m sure that I’ll be crown prince sooner or later!” Qi Chen didn’t conceal his ambitions at all in front of Jun Huang.
She listened silently, and finally spoke when Qi Chen paused for a cup of water. His mouth had run so fast that it had gone dry. “I deeply admire Your Highness’ grand plans, and my heart is full of the hope that you will realize them and prioritize the love of the people. I sincerely believe that Your Highness will be a wise and noble ruler if you take the throne one day.”
“Your words please this prince greatly. You may have one of the jade scepters I received.” Qi Chen opened the silk covered box he was holding as he spoke and took out a pale green scepter, handing it to Jun Huang. She made an effort to refuse it, but had to accept it in the end. As she held it, the jade felt quite cool to the touch.
The crown prince’s punishment had finally come to an end, and Qi Yin heard of Qi Chen’s recent favor before he even left his manor. The emperor hadn’t even mentioned the crown prince in court as of late!
Qi Yin sat in his main hall, teeth grinding in anger as his hands folded into fists. His knuckled popped and cracked with the force he exerted. The flames of fury in his chest seemed ready to erupt at any second. The servants were trembling as they knelt in the hall, not a one daring enough to look up at their master. They were afraid that Qi Yin would end their lives at the slightest provocation.
“How could Qi Chen have gained father’s eye in such a short time? He’s completely useless! And you, you worthless trash, hurry up and tell this prince what’s happened lately!” Qi Yin’s rage-filled eyes swept the servants. It almost seemed like sparks were flying from his eyes.
Yet, even in the face of such obvious rage, an ordinary looking man kneeling in the far corner seemed to have no fear at all. He was the only who dared lift his head, his eyes bright, when no one had the courage to raise their eyes and look at Qi Yin. His tone was neither terrified or fawning as he spoke up, “Your Highness, the second prince has gained His Majesty’s favor because of the drought on the border. The second prince traveled to the border under imperial order and handled the matter well. Therefore…”
“Bullshit! How would I not know what kind of person Qi Chen is? How would he possibly be willing to go to a place like that and suffer?” Qi Yin interrupted the man’s words without even a thought, feeling that the man was running his mouth.