Chapter 126: Greed
"It will work," said Jun Huang. "You know that I never fight a battle I can't win."
Her chilly gaze made Nan Xun feel exposed. He turned away and cleared his throat. "Mister Ji Bo is talented, but most talented men are power hungry. Aren't you worried that Ji Bo will turn to the third prince's side for real?"
"He's only putting on an act."
"You know what I mean," Nan Xun said in a rush. It concerned him that Jun Huang didn't even think about the possibility.
Jun Huang could tell he was worried. She let out a soundless laugh. "We can talk back at my place." She turned to leave. Nan Xun was right behind her.
Back in her place, Jun Huang told the page boy to shut the door; she wasn't taking any more guests today. The page boy nodded in understanding and closed the door, separating the inside from the outside world.
Jun Huang led Nan Xun to the garden. The robe she wore today was a little too long. It covered the back of her feet and dragged over the ground, bringing up dust into the air when she walked down the stairs. Nan Xun could see particles flying under the sun.
His mind was elsewhere, but his footsteps remained steady. They soon reached the garden.
Since the arrival of spring, sometimes there would be a couple sparrows perching on the fake mountain. They seemed at home there. Even a passersby wouldn't scare them away.
There were wet patches over the stone table. It was clear that the servants had only just finished cleaning. Jun Huang didn't care much. She was fine as long as the stools were dry.
Hearing that Jun Huang had returned, Little Girl hurriedly brewed a pot of medicinal tea and brought it to the garden. She wiped the table dry with her handkerchief before laying the tea set down and pouring a cup of tea.
Jun Huang was mesmerized by the dancing smoke coming from the teapot. The combined scent of medicine and tea was pleasant to her senses.
Nan Xun had frowned at Little Girl when she first came in, thinking that she had brought Jun Huang tea. He relaxed when he realized that it was medicine.
Good thing it's not tea, he thought to himself, or I would have to throw the teapot away.
He snorted silently, oblivious to the fact that Jun Huang had taken in all the changes in his expression. She simply decided to not comment on it.
"Can you tell me why you trust Ji Bo so much?" Nan Xun intended it as a simple question, but the hint of jealousy was clear in his tone. He didn't realize it himself. He didn't know he had become so attached to Jun Huang that he was unwilling to see her smile at another man. Subconsciously, he saw Ji Bo as a rival.
It was possible that Jun Huang preferred someone who was as smart as she was. Intelligent people often ended up matching up. Rich men normally marry women from rich families. There was some merit to the idea of finding a partner from a similar background.
Jun Huang was clever, but she could be slow sometimes in matters of the heart. She didn't realize that Nan Xun was jealous. She drank some of the medicinal tea and said, "My master is an old friend of Ji Bo's master."
Jun Huang's master Ole Cragfiend was the complete opposite of Ji Bo's master Guigu1. No one could even imagine them knowing each other.
Guigu was a well-respected man. Many were eager to befriend him. At the same time there were people who were jealous of Guigu's knowledge and talent. There had been many attempts to take Guigu's life.
In theory, those petty villains shouldn't have been capable of hurting a smart man like Guigu.
However, Guigu knew nothing about poison and concealed weapons. He was a man of integrity. He refused to fight people through such lowly means.
It didn't mean that someone else wouldn't use foul tricks to get to him. Once, when Guigu was traveling the mundane world, a group of men spotted him. Guigu had noticed his tails, but he decided to wait and see what they intended to do. He got careless.
Hit by a concealed weapon, Guigu was on the brink of his death when Ole Cragfiend happened to pass by. He took Guigu back to his house and cleanse the poison.
At the time, Ole Cragfiend hadn't known that the stray he picked up was the famous Guigu. The potent poison was what attracted his attention. Fascinated, he did multiple experiments and produced a cure without intended to. Ole Gragfiend only realized who his patient was when Guigu woke up.
That was how the two met. During Guigu's stay in Ole Gragfiend's house, they gradually developed a bond, which became so strong that they considered each other brother and left no secrets untold between them. Whenever one of them had the time, they would visit the other to have a chat.
Ji Bo knew Ole Cragfiend had saved Guigu's life and befriended him. He also knew Jun Huang was once Ole Cragfiend's student.
Nan Xun slowly relaxed. But then he wondered if being Guigu's student truly was enough for them to put their trust in Ji Bo. He kept his doubts in his heart.
A mere glance was all it took for Jun Huang to get what he was thinking. "Ji Bo is a rare talent that everyone wants on their side. Since I have decided to use him, I'm not going to doubt him."
"It's still necessary for us to keep on our guard. Then we will be prepared if one day Ji Bo turns on us." Nan Xun was worried that Jun Huang would misunderstand him. He quickly added, "I'm not someone who thinks the worst of everyone, but you have said it yourself: Ji Bo is well known for his talent. If the third prince finds out who Ji Bo is and promises him power and great fortune, who knows if Ji Bo will say yes? He is not like you. You may be able to stay true to yourself because of your desire for revenge, but others may not."
Jun Huang gave him a tight smile. "Don't you know that one should recruit people he trusts, and trust the people he has recruited? Besides, everyone has the right to make choices for his own life. If Ji Bo chooses to serve someone other than Qi Yun because he believes that person will make a better leader, I am in no place to judge."
Nan Xun fell silent. He knew that if he continued to argue, they would only end up fighting a meaningless fight. He stayed in the garden without another word.
Jun Huang knew he still didn't agree with her, but she trusted Ji Bo's integrity. She considered him to be a leader and a gentleman.
The third prince marveled at the blood jade in his hand. He had almost forgotten about Ji Bo's existence.
Originally, Ji Bo had planned to let the third prince start the conversation, but now he had had a change of mind. He had to take matters into his own hand. Otherwise a fool like the third prince would make him wait forever.
"This gentleman is named Ji Bo. It's an honor to be in your presence, Your Highness." Ji Bo cupped his hands with a dignified grace.
The third prince had heard of Ji Bo, but this man couldn't be that much older than thirty. He scoffed. "Do you honestly think you can get away with using Ji Bo's name? His fame had reached all parts of the country. He must be a godlike man with a strong presence. You can't be Ji Bo."
"One must not judge a book by its cover, Your Highness. Does Your Highness truly think that this gentleman is an imposter?" Ji Bo's tone was calm. He wasn't demanding the third prince to believe him. Those words were merely building up to what he was going to say next.
It was clear that the third prince didn't really believe Ji Bo. He sat on a stool and looked closer at the blood jade. Every once in a while he would let out a appreciative sigh. He wasn't a true expert on jade, but he would never admit his lack of knowledge.
Ji Bo scoffed silently. The prince truly was a fool. He didn't even doubt that the jade wasn't as valuable as Ji Bo had claimed it to be!
Ji Bo was tired of wasting his time. He cleared his throat and put on a servile smile. "This gentleman can tell from Your Highness's extraordinary features that you will become a great leader."
The third prince spared Ji Bo a glance without showing much reaction. He wondered what this strange man wanted to do.
That was the effects Ji Bo was aiming for. He smiled and continued, "Your Highness has helped me get out of a difficult situation, and I could see great future lying await for Your Highness. If Your Highness can trust this gentleman, I'm willing to help you make that future a reality."
The third prince's expression tightened. He looked around before letting out a sigh. "What do you mean?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at Ji Bo.
"What does Your Highness think I meant?" Ji Bo's smile was faint. The brilliant light in his eyes made him look like the reincarnation of a fallen god.
The third prince fell quiet. The more he thought about Ji Bo's question, the more confused he was. "Why do you want to help me?"
Ji Bo waved his foldable fan with a smile. "There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who seek to leave a trace in the history after death, and those who pursue self-interest while they are alive."
The third prince pulled his lips into a sharp grin and asked, "Which kind are you then?"
The third Prince's tone was far from friendly. Ji Bo chuckled. His brief moment of silence conveyed a great many unsaid words. "This gentleman is shallow. I have no great ambition. I only wish for Your Highness to grant me a place in the palace once you gain the throne."
The third prince frowned. "If the gentleman can help me replace the crown prince, I will give you not only a place in the palace, but also all the riches and beautiful women in the world…"
"No, that's not what I'm asking for," said Ji Bo, waving a hand in denial and shaking his head. "This gentleman is asking for one privilege and one privilege only. I ask for Your Highness to make me the State Preceptor. This gentleman has no other wishes."
Literally translated as ghost valley. ↩