Chapter 408: A storm is coming, yet you’re still at ease Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Emperor Tianhui had originally planned for the Duke of Qin to remain in the disaster regions until ploughing season began. His intentions was to keep the man occupied with the troubles of the famine area, far away from the nexus of power in the capital city. But His Highness Duke of Qin managed to resolve the famine issue before spring ever came, so he had nothing to do beyond waiting for his summons back.
Under these circumstances, keeping the Duke of Qin in South Ning Prefecture would only allow him to establish a foundation there instead. He might even take complete control of South Ning Prefecture and its two large, neighboring regions. The three areas that had suffered famine this time were Tianning Country’s three most important regions. Their combined landmass made up half of Tianning’s central region and occupied a key position between the south and northern regions of the country. Most of Tianning’s population centers were located around these prefectures. If they fell under the Duke of Qin’s control, his power and influence would increase substantially.
How could Emperor Tianhui not panic at the possibility?
Right now, he was lying sick in bed. Careful thought had made him realize that sending the Duke of Qin to the south was a bad choice, but it was too late now. Emperor Tianhui sent Eunuch Liu to Jiangnan’s Plum Blossom Sea, where the poor man had been sitting in the guest hall for nearly half the day. Still, he hadn’t seen hair or hide of His Highness Duke of Qin and esteemed wangfei. Instead, it was Chu Xifeng who came out to meet him.
“Eunuch Liu, His Highness is in poor health and in no condition to meet with visitors. Please forgive me,” Chu Xifeng said politely.
Eunuch Liu couldn’t afford to accept such formality from the man, and quickly clasped his hands in front of his chest for a bow. “Guard Chu, you are overwhelming me with your favors. I don’t know whether His Highness has made any plans to return to the capital yet?”
“Eunuch Liu, His Highness has worked hard and is unsuited for long, arduous journeys at the moment. The doctor said to wait and see, so there’s really no set date at the moment,” Chu Xifeng replied helplessly.
Eunuch Liu knew that he was in a tight spot, but what else could he do except return and report the news to Emperor Tianhui? In his mind, dealing with Emperor Tianhui was far easier than with His Highness Duke of Qin. And thus, Eunuch Liu left with an ‘unconfirmed’ for the expected return of the Duke of Qin.
When Emperor Tianhui heard the news, he nearly leapt out of his sickbed. Even an idiot would know that the Duke of Qin was doing this on purpose. Instead of delaying his trip back, he’d flat out refused to give a date.
“Someone come, send out an imperial decree. Zhen refuses to believe that I can’t summon him back!” Emperor Tianhui was delirious with rage.
By his side, Noble Consort Xue, who had been nursing him, quickly held him back. “Your Majesty, please calm your anger. That mustn’t be done at all costs!”
Emperor Tianhui glared at her, causing Noble Consort Xue to quickly bow in return. “Your Majesty, the Duke of Qin currently has a stellar reputation in the central regions. What will the people think once news spreads of Your Majesty’s decree to summon him back?”
Emperor Tianhui grew even angrier at these words. “What will they think? What, will they want to revolt instead? Do they think that Long Feiye’s the one calling the shots for Tianning Country?”
“Your Majesty, please calm your anger! Chenqie never meant it that way. But those low class commoners have never been able to tell what’s good for them. Anyone who treats them well gets their favor, especially the peasants from South Ning and North Ning. I ask that Your Majesty thinks thrice to prevent falling into the Duke of Qin’s snares.”
Noble Consort Xue’s words finally breached Emperor Tianhui’s haze of anger. He was shrewd enough to understand the intricate connections between such details, but had been far too angry to think straight. After a long pause, Emperor Tianhui summoned Eunuch Liu anew. “Send out an imperial decree. The Duke of Qin has rendered great services by relieving the people in the disaster areas. He shall be handsomely rewarded once he returns to the capital! Let Gu Beiyue…” At that, Emperor Tianhui suddenly changed his mind. “Let Imperial Physician Huang go to treat the Duke of Qin with the best medicines available!”
If Emperor Tianhui wanted to win the people’s favor, treating the Duke of Qin well was his only option at the moment.
“Your Majesty, there are two Imperial Physician Huangs in the Imperial Physician’s Courtyard. Which one do you mean?” Eunuch Liu asked.
“Huang Gengchen,1 the one whose medical skills are only inferior to Gu Beiyue. Remember, tell him to help the Duke of Qin recover as fast as possible!” Emperor Tianhui emphasized, meaning to use Imperial Physician Huang to urge the Duke of Qin back quickly.
How could the Duke of Qin keep pretending to be ill when an imperial physician was knocking on his door? Gu Beiyue stood vigil by the emperor’s sickbed as he watched Eunuch Liu leave, a smile playing upon his lips. When the empress dowager had tormented him until he was left convalescing at the Duke of Qin’s estate, that same Imperial Physician Huang had treated him in secret. Although Han Yunxi didn’t know the exact relationship between him and Imperial Physician Huang, she was quite friendly with that particular doctor.
Now that everything was taken care of, Noble Consort Xue quickly lifted a bowl of medicine in her delicate hands. “Your Majesty, please calm your anger. Your health is most important!” She was a young consort, not more than 20 years old. In the rankings of the four Noble Consorts in the palace, she was number three. Born of a concubine, she was the daughter of the imperial uncle’s estate and the empress’s half-sister, making her the empress dowager’s niece on her sister’s side. The imperial uncle’s estate might have fallen from grace, but Empress Dowager Li was still around, so Noble Consort Xue hadn’t been much affected by their reversal of fortunes.
Of the four Noble Consorts in the palace, Noble Consort Xiao–mother to the second imperial son–had already fallen out of favor. Noble Consort Ning had remained in her quarters without vying for anything, while Noble Consort Yun had been poisoned to death. Noble Consort Xue had managed to fill in the blanks and earn the emperor’s favor. Moreover, with the empress dowager’s support from behind the scenes, she was currently the brightest star in the imperial harem.
Emperor Tianhui drank his medicine as he thumbed through memorials and petitions written to the throne. Suddenly, he noticed a booklet from the Ministry of Rites regarding the West Chu princess and the related marriage rites.
The West Chu princess was none other than Chu Qingge. Because she was representing Western Zhou in the marriage alliance, the emperor had conferred upon her the title of ‘princess.’ Chu Qingge already had a good family background to begin with. With this added title, she would definitely make the competition in the imperial harem more interesting upon her arrival. The majority of the royal court and the imperial harem wanted to get rid of the insane empress. Noble Consort Xue secretly peeked at the booklet from the Ministry of Rites and felt her heart become uneasy. She’d seen Chu Qingge before and could only imagine what kind of mischief she’d get up to in the harem.
In the end, Noble Consort Xue decided to find princess consort Mu Liuyue in order to talk things over. They were in the same boat, after all. If Mu Liuyue wanted to be empress in the future, she would have to help the crown prince vie for the throne and eliminate all possible threats in the cradle. Noble Consort Xue paid a visit to the Eastern Palace that very night.
But Mu Liuyue didn’t take her warnings to heart at all. “Even if Chu Qingge comes, can she help His Majesty by birthing a son immediately? What kind of waves could an infant in swaddling clothes make? Noble Consort Xue, you really are underestimating His Highness Crown Prince.”
Only the people of the Eastern Palace knew of Mu Liuyue’s private difficulties. In public, she’d put on an imposing air to puff herself up, pretending that nothing was wrong as she wholeheartedly defended His Highness Crown Prince.
“Liuyue, it’s not that I’m underestimating the crown prince, but that you’re underestimating Western Zhou’s Chu Clan!” Noble Consort Xue’s tone was sincere in her warnings.
“Forget it, forget it. There’s the crown prince’s advisors to worry about such things. It’s getting late, so I ask that Noble Consort Xue to please go back,” Mu Liuyue was impatient.
Noble Consort Xue was currently Emperor Tianhui’s favored consort, the sole figure capable of swaying him through pillow talks. Who wouldn’t fawn on her? But Mu Liuyue, as the princess consort, didn’t take her seriously at all. In the end, Noble Consort Xue still depended on the empress dowager, whose full hopes rested on the crown prince in turn. No matter how angry she felt, Noble Consort Xue couldn’t do anything against this girl.
After sending off Noble Consort Xue, Mu Liuyue immediately issued orders. “Someone come, prepare a generous gift for me. I want to give a present to Chu Qingge!”
Actually, Mu Liuyue had been thinking over the Chu Qingge marriage alliance issue long before Noble Consort Xue arrived. Her only thought was that Chu Qingge thoroughly hated Han Yunxi, just like her. The two of them were like peas in a pod! She had no hope of relying on the crown prince regarding this matter, so she only wished that Chu Qingge could marry over quickly. This way, they’d be able to take their revenge in tandem!
Currently, Han Yunxi was still in Jiangnan’s distant Plum Blossom Sea. How would she feel if she knew of such thoughts? In truth, she hadn’t taken Chu Qingge’s impending marriage to heart at all. Even the empress dowager found it impossible to deal with her, much less a new bride of the imperial harem. She was more concerned with when Long Feiye was planning to return to the capital. Originally, she thought their leisurely, carefree days were quickly coming to an end, but Long Feiye didn’t seem to have any plans of returning to the capital at all. Even Imperial Physician Huang was sent away with a few words by Chu Xifeng when he arrived.
Is he really waiting for Emperor Tianhui to beg him back, like he said previously?
Mm, that’s definitely worth waiting for.
On this day, General Baili’s messenger pigeon came with news from Fishery Island. Han Yunxi glanced at the contents before she chuckled. “It’s about time for the effects of the medicine to fade away.”
The ice on the Illusory Sea Lake had started to melt, while the poison she used in the water should be losing its effect as well. Now that food supplies had stabilized in the three disaster regions, there was no need to keep fishing anymore. Long Feiye had long stopped caring about the island altogether.
“Chu Xifeng, pass on my orders,” he said coldly, “Guard the shores of Fishery Island unto death. No slacking tolerated!”
Jun Yixie was still trapped on the island and Long Feiye had left him with two choices: either die in the sea, or die of old age on land. Han Yunxi knew that Long Feiye had yet to cool his temper, so she quietly offered him a cup of tea and said, somewhat hesitantly, “Your Highness, it’s possible that news of what happened on Fishery Island will spread very soon…” She didn’t finish her sentence, but the meaning was implicit. This was a truly troublesome affair.
First off, Long Feiye had used the entirety of Tianning’s naval forces to form a blockade against a single Jun Yixie. If Emperor Tianhui found out, he’d definitely go and investigate. General Baili might be one of Long Feiye’s people, but the navy still belonged to the royal court. Secondly, Jun Yixie’s grudge and how he’d taken advantage of her would definitely make her the source of various talks and writings. How many people would use that information to figuratively slap Long Feiye in the face? Thirdly, the empress dowager would never let it go once she found out about her untouched gecko cinnabar mark. Lastly, Jun Yixie had used a Northern Li imperial ship to sail to the island, so the Northern Li imperial clan most certainly knew of his plans. They’d probably write about that, too. Han Yunxi’s thoughts were justified, and Long Feiye had naturally considered them as well.
Still, all he said was, “Don’t worry. Make some preparations and I’ll take you sightseeing tomorrow.”
“Your Highness , you’re in a good mood!” Han Yunxi grinned. If he was willing to enjoy the scenery, then she probably didn’t need to worry about anything. The plowing season was already here, the perfect time to see all sorts of sprouts and growing things. The weather was neither cold nor hot and the landscapes were beautiful. Going on a sightseeing tour at a time like this was rather romantic, wasn’t it?
His Highness Duke of Qin has his moods, too! Han Yunxi felt even less like returning to the capital now!
As soon as she left the room, a guard arrived with a report. “Your Highness, Gu Qi Sha sent an update. He wants to make an appointment to see you on the 15th of next month.”
Long Feiye’s eyes flickered at the news. “Has he found those two other ingredients?”
“He didn’t say anything beyond the appointment for the 15th. He asks that Your Highness set a location,” the guard replied.
“Pill Fiend Valley, as before. Tell him that your lordship will definitely arrive on time!” Long Feiye said frostily.