Chapter 122: Solution
Nan Xun made his way back to his manor in silence. He cursed silently, his cold smile growing colder as time went by. He was mad at Jun Huang for casting his concerns aside like they were worthless. Did she not know how much he cared for her?
He finally calmed down when he reached his manor. With a deep breath, he entered and ordered a shadowguard to meet him in his room.
"What does Your Highness need?"
"Find out if there's an expert in cleansing poison, or if there's a medicine that can cure all poisons," said Nan Xun. "If you do find anyone or anything, bring them back to me. Understand?"
"Understood, Your Highness. Rest assured, this subordinate will not disappoint you." The shadowguard cupped his hands and left the room once he was sure Nan Xun had finished talking. He cupped his hands at Ji Bo when he ran into Ji Bo on his way out.
Ji Bo had been living away from society. Even being invited by Jun Huang to the imperial city wasn't enough to make him lose his calm. He would act as he had always been no matter where he was. He saw Prince Nan Manor as simply another lodging. He didn't see himself as being dependent on Nan Xun.
The door to Nan Xun's room had not been shut when Nan Xun and the shadowguard were talking. Ji Bo, who had always had good ears, heard everything Nan Xun said. Once the shadowguard left, Ji Bo cleared his throat and knocked on the door.
Ji Bo entered the room. Nan Xun was at the table, a thoughtful scowl pulling the corners of his mouth downward.
"This gentleman can see that Your Highness is troubled. What happened?"
Nan Xun considered keeping Jun Huang's condition from Ji Bo, but he decided otherwise. Ji Bo was here on Jun Huang's request, and he was an intelligent man. He might be able to convince Jun Huang. Nan Xun told him about what had happened.
Ji Bo was surprised. How had he not noticed that Jun Huang was in such a bad condition? When he last saw Jun Huang, she seemed perfectly fine. Was she really plagued with such potent poison?
But it didn't look like Nan Xun was lying to him; there was no reason for the prince to do so anyway. Ji Bo decided to give Nan Xun the benefit of the doubt. He would visit Jun Huang tomorrow.
The next day, Ji Bo left the manor early in the morning. Nan Xun was going assign a page boy to serve him, but Ji Bo turned the offer down. He was used to being free to go wherever he wanted on his own.
Before Ji Bo left the manor, Nan Xun came to find Ji Bo and said, "Please do your best to convince her, Mister Ji Bo. Her body can't take any more abuse. You are a talented man. She respects you. She will listen to you."
His eyes were so genuine, it was impossible for Ji Bo to say no to him.
He didn't know if other people were able to see how much Nan Xun cared about Jun Huang, but he certainly could. Nan Xun was obviously in love with Jun Huang. However… He sighed inwardly. The limited time he had spent with Jun Huang was enough to give him a glimpse into Jun Huang's mind. He knew what she was set on achieving. Someone like her would never give up on her own goals for love.
Ji Bo kept his thoughts to himself. What a shame. Nan Xun and Jun Huang would make a good couple. They would be happy together
To avoid rousing suspicion, Ji Bo rarely visited Jun Huang. Most of the time Jun Huang was the one to visit him in Nan Xun's manor. Ji Bo dressed himself as a regular scholar. The page boy at the door was observant enough to recognize him from afar. There were still Qi Chen's men keeping watch outside. The page boy darted his eyes and quickly went up to Ji Bo.
"Oh, finally you have come, sir!" The page boy exclaimed at the top of his lungs, attracting Qi Chen's men's attention. "Gentleman Feng has been waiting for you! He is too tired to do anything. He's looking forward to listening to you reading books to him! Gentleman Feng is in a good mood today. He is sure to pay you handsomely!"
Ji Bo startled. He rubbed at his ears and looked over at the page boy. Naturally he knew why the page boy was acting this way. He exchanged a few words with the page boy, saying that gentleman Feng had always been generous, playing the part of a sholar coming to read books to Jun Huang.
Once inside, Ji Bo gave the page boy a look. "Your voice is loud enough to cause anyone's heart to stop. Please don't yell at me the next time you see me. I'm too old to take it."
He made his way to the south wing, leaving the page boy standing awkwardly with his hands over his mouth.
Ji Bo followed a maid inside, taking in the way Jun Huang had maintained the place as he walked. When they reached the south wing, the maid went inside to notify Jun Huang. Ji Bo looked over at the garden. Blooming flowers filled the area with bright colors. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the stunning view.
The maid returned and motioned at him to enter. "Gentleman Feng said to let you in, sir."
That pulled Ji Bo back to reality. He smiled bashfully and whipped his fan open to cool his face down. He walked into Jun Huang's room.
Hearing that Ji Bo was here, Jun Huang insisted on getting off the bed. She cupped her hands at Ji Bo. "Mister Ji Bo has graced this humble place with your presence."
Ji Bo disregarded her polite greeting and huffed at her sheet-white face. "This gentleman cannot take the compliment. It seems that you can't even take care of yourself. I'm having doubts about what future we have. Perhaps the battle is already lost."
Jun Huang's head jerked up. "You have crossed a line."
She didn't want to think of Ji Bo as an arrogant man. She didn't want to admit that her body was deteriorating, either. Through the force of sheer stubbornness, she kept herself upright. Both of them refused to sit as they stared each other down.
Little Girl was startled when she brought tea to the room. Jun Huang's face had become even paler. Her form was so unsteady, she could be knocked down by a mere breeze.
"You should have a seat, gentleman Feng! This won't do!" Little Girl's eyes were round and bright. They were like crystal gems when she focused on someone. It seemed as if she was able to see all the pain and suffering in the world, but at the same time there was always an innocence to her gaze.
Jun Huang could no longer supported her own weight. She did have to let her body recover. She accepted Little Girl's suggestion as the olive branch it was and sat down. With a quiet laugh, she asked Little Girl to leave before turning to Ji Bo. "This gentleman has been too harsh. I hope you will forgive me."
What Ji Bo wouldn't give to be a good enough doctor to help Jun Huang! He couldn't bare watching Jun Huang destroy her own health. He leveled Jun Huang with a cold stare. "You better take care of yourself, Jun Huang. If you don't even value your own life, how can I trust you? I might as well throw myself under Qi Chen's banner. Qi Yin has passed away. The empress has been banished. Even though Consort Zhen is not yet the empress, older brother always comes before younger brother in inheriting the throne. Normally Qi Yun won't even stand a chance in becoming the emperor. If I serve Qi Chen with all I've got, there is a good chance that he will make me the Grand Chancellor in the future. I will be able to do what I want then."
Ji Bo had not spouted any lies. It was also true that Jun Huang didn't have any right to keep Ji Bo on their side. She picked Ji Bo simply because he had a vision he would want to realize.
She couldn't take the risk. Even though the emperor seemed to have lost his fondness for Qi Chen, he was still protecting Qi Chen. Without the emperor's intervention, Jun Huang was sure that they would have found evidence against Qi Chen during their investigation.
The emperor had a closer relationship with Qi Yun. Nevertheless, Qi Chen was still the crown prince. Even if Qi Yun was able to garnered the same respect and dread from other people as Nan Xun did, he was still a prince. Nothing more.
"I've been getting weaker and weaker. I've often found myself in situations where my body can not keep up with my mind. When Western Que was destroyed, I got hit by a poison so potent that even my mentor hadn't been able to cleanse it. To make things worse, I was bit by a venomous snake some time ago. It won't be long before my body stops functioning."
"I have thought that I would eliminate Eastern Wu soon, avenging my family and restoring the world to peace at the same time. However… the way forward is unclear. Who knows which path is the right one? I have been too hasty. That I have to admit. But tell me, what else can I do?" She saw Ji Bo as both a brotherly figure and a parental figure. He was at once her friend and her mentor. She was as honest with him as she could be.
Ji Bo had not known that her body was close to being burned out. He frowned, overwhelmed by a strong wave of regret. He sighed at Jun Huang's pale face.
After the time for a pot of tea to brew, Ji Bo looked up at Jun Huang and said, "This gentleman has a plan that may be viable."
Jun Huang relaxed and let out a sigh. "The gentleman may be upfront with me."
"The fourth prince has been attracting a little too much attention. The crown prince may have become suspicious of him. We have to find a scapegoat before Qi Chen strikes."
Jun Huang frowned. "Does the gentleman have a candidate?"
"I can pledge myself to the third prince and use the incompetent prince to oppose the crown prince. If we let them destroy each other, the fourth prince will be able to gain the throne without attracting backlash."
Jun Huang never did anything without thinking her options through. She found Ji Bo's solution to be too risky. She shook her head. "Everyone considers the third prince to be incompetent, but who knows if he is truly foolish, or simply laying low? It is easy for us to say that we will keep him as a temporary emperor; it will be difficult to dethrone him once he gains the throne. I think the third prince might have been staying out of the conflicts because he is level-headed."