Chapter 9: Crown Prince Qi Yin
Three days later.
Jun Huang stretched like a cat before walking out of the room with a yawn. She’d only been unconscious for a night and had in fact been awake for two days at this point. Nan Xun had happened to casually ask where she was headed, which is how they’d ended up traveling to the Northern Qi capital together. With a good night’s sleep under her belt after the hardships of the road, Jun Huang felt invigorated. She saw Nan Xun as soon as she entered the main hall.
“Morning!” Jun Huang waved her hand and greeted Nan Xun. His nod back was his usual form of greeting. As she continued into the main hall, his eyes followed her, tracking every move. She was wearing her usual men’s outfit, her movements roguish with flair. Apart from her delicate features, there was nothing out of the ordinary with her act.
The scent of breakfast wafted over the hall, rousing Jun Huang’s appetite. After greeting Nan Xun, she wielded her chopsticks and began tucking in with great gusto.
“Eat slowly, don’t choke.” Nan Xun looked on in amusement at Jun Huang scarfing down everything in sight. He poured a cup of water and handed it to her. There was a tenderness in his eyes that he himself didn’t even realize.
“Thank you.” Jun Huang took the cup without much ceremony and chugged down the contents. Once they’d been fed and watered, the servants cleared the table. Jun Huang hesitated and then finally said, “I’ve been a burden to you these days. Now that we’re at the Qi capital, I think I should…”
“His Highness the Crown Prince!”
Jun Huang hadn’t finished speaking before a large crowd suddenly surged inside. A tall, well built man wearing a black robe with a gold collar led the group. His features were well defined and handsome, and great vigor emanated from his eyes.
Jun Huang started in surprise, but Nan Xun had already stood to welcome the newcomer. “Your Highness.”
This is Crown Prince Qi Yin of Northern Qi? Jun Huang took a careful look at him. There was a bright smile on his face, seemingly in good spirits. His every movement and gesture spoke of an innately noble bearing.
“No need to stand on ceremony, Prince Nan! My royal father has heard of the ambush you suffered on the way back and specially sent this prince to comfort you.” Qi Yin smiled broadly and turned back to instruct, “Bring the items over!”
Several guards walked over, bearing five large, redwood trunks. Qi Yin laughed, “It’s all gold, silver, and jewelry! Although Prince Nan was unable to save Western Que, you held a grand funeral for her deceased ruler, Jun Hongmo. You have raised Northern Qi’s glory in doing so and should be rewarded!”
Jun Huang had a rough idea of what was going on at this point. Although Qi Yin was complimenting Nan Xun on a job well done with regards to the funeral on the surface, he was actually jeering at the general’s incompetence. Nan Xun had traveled all the way to Western Que and not only failed to save the country, but had even fallen victim to an ambush on the way back! It would seem that the ambush Nan Xun suffered on Northern Qi borders has much to do with the crown prince.
“Your Highness flatters me.” Nan Xun didn’t even blink. It was as if he hadn’t heard the mockery in the crown prince’s words.
Qi Yin seemed to have anticipated Nan Xun’s diffident response as his face darkened briefly before swiftly returning to its previous expression. He casually looked around, his eyes coming to rest on Jun Huang off to the side. “Who are you, and why do you not bow when you see this prince?”
Nan Xun frowned and was about to speak when Jun Huang gracefully got to her feet. “Greetings to Your Highness.” She bowed at the waist as a greeting. “This commoner is Feng Baiyu. Please forgive my ignorance in not knowing Your Highness would be here today!” She was dressed in a man’s clothing, so her name of Jun Huang would no longer be appropriate. 1 Thus, she’d chosen the name Feng Baiyu. 2
“Feng Baiyu.” Qi Yin’s eyes suddenly narrowed. “You’re the one who risked your life to save Prince Nan?”
“That would be this commoner,” Jun Huang responded. It was highly likely that the capital had learned of her saving Nan Xun whilst she’d laid unconscious in Saddletown. Besides, it wasn’t like she had wanted to keep it a secret either.
“Saving Prince Nan is a great feat. You should be rewarded!” Qi Yin held out a hand, and a guard instantly placed a gift box in them. “This is fine jade that the Wu country sent over as tribute a few days ago. There is only this one piece in all the lands.” Qi Yin opened the box and took out the jade inside. The white jade was flawless, perfect even, and glowed faintly with a cold light. It was as Qi Yin had said, a fine piece of jade.
“Prince Nan is an important subject of Northern Qi. In saving him, you have rendered a service to Northern Qi. This jade is hereby bestowed upon you in gratitude.” Qi Yin offered the jade to Jun Huang as he spoke.
Qi Yin’s attitude was a bit off, and Jun Huang subconsciously flicked a glance at Nan Xun. His brow was slightly furrowed, but the general didn’t say anything. She weighed things internally and decided to hold her hands out to accept the gift. “This commoner thanks Your…”
She’d just started to speak when she happened to see the ruthlessness at the bottom of Qi Yin’s eyes. A frisson of alarm struck her heart, and she was just about to back away, but Qi Yin moved even faster than her.
Crack! The fine jade hit the ground and instantly shattered into shards. Qi Yin’s angry roar burst out, “Feng Baiyu, I bestowed upon you a piece of beautiful jade in gratitude, yet you shatter it in public! Men, arrest him!”
Everything happened in the blink of an eye, with guards immediately charging forward to take down Jun Huang as soon as the Crown Prince spoke.
Jun Huang’s eyes sank. I see. So this was Qi Yin’s plan all along! He wanted Nan Xun dead, but I saved Nan Xun and now he can’t do anything to the general. Therefore, he can only do something to me. So he used the jade to frame me!
“Hold!” Nan Xun’s hand came down in front of her as he stepped in front of Jun Huang, a cold light glinting in his eyes. “Your Highness seeks to arrest my savior in my own manor. Where is the respect for this prince?”
“A mere commoner dares smash the fine jade that I personally bestowed! Where is his respect for this seat?!” Qi Yin pointed at Jun Huang. “Take him!”
The look in Nan Xun’s eyes grew frosty as he readied himself to erupt into action, but Jun Huang tugged lightly on his sleeve. “To think that the crown prince of Northern Qi is so narrow-minded and petty!” She looked coldly at Qi Yin.
“How dare you!” Qi Yin quailed internally at the sound of the accusation, but plastered an expression of immense fury on his face. Indeed, he was acting quite ungraciously, but this fellow was just a commoner! How dare he publicly oppose me!
Nan Xun looked at Jun Huang with a frown. He didn’t say anything, instead solidly placing his body in front of hers. Jun Huang looked back at Nan Xun. “Prince Nan has spent most of his life on the back of a warhorse rampaging through the battlefields to conquer new lands for Northern Qi. His achievements are numerous, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call him the foremost subject of Northern Qi. But now—“ She suddenly looked at Qi Yin, her tone severe, “Prince Nan has just returned after a brush with danger and hasn’t even had time to recuperate yet, but you come to Prince Nan Manor to arrest his savior for considerations of face—“ Jun Huang drew close to Qi Yin, naked interrogation in her phoenix eyes, “Is Prince Nan’s life worth less than even a piece of fine jade to Northern Qi?!”
“You!” Qi Yin’s face flickered through a variety of expressions before he finally ground out, “Prince Nan is a beloved subject of Northern Qi, how would a piece of fine jade be comparable to him?”
“Then may this commoner be so bold as to ask,” Jun Huang backed up and raised her hands in a cupped fist salute, her tone still cold, “Does Your Highness still wish to throw this commoner into the dungeons?”
“Naturally, you have rendered a great service to Northern Qi in saving Prince Nan and should be richly rewarded.” Qi Yin looked at Jun Huang meaningfully and suddenly calmed down. “Come, reward Feng Baiyu with jade, a thousand taels of gold and silver, and a hundred bolts of silk!”
The look in Jun Huang’s eyes flickered briefly. It seems she’d underestimated this Qi Yin a bit. There were several reasons he’d wanted to capture her earlier. Venting his displeasure was one of them, but he could also set a public example for Nan Xun too. But, her eloquent counter had only caused a brief moment of panic before he’d quickly made the best decision he could in the circumstances. It looks like he has some abilities to his name, as expected of the one who holds the position of crown prince.
Jun Huang no longer kept up her verbal offensive as she raised her hands in a gesture of thanks. “Many thanks to Your Highness!”