Chapter 19: Strategy
She could’ve healed the wound on her arm a long time ago with some of her own medicines, but hadn’t done so, allowing those doctors to make their own prescriptions. She didn’t care at all that the wound was healing very slowly. As the bandages around her arm were slowly unwrapped, the clotted blood began pulling at her wound. Pain was inevitable, but not even a crease appeared on her brow. The maid inwardly winced for Jun Huang. She’d served in the crown prince’s manor for a while and remembered when the crown prince had bruised his leg once after a fall. He’d howled and moaned for quite a while after that.
Jun Huang’s eyelids were partially closed. The pain from her arm was nothing to her. She’d once been a test subject for medicines after all, and the pain from when her master Ole Cragfiend had tackled her poison had been particularly soul wrenching. She’d long since grown used to pain.
She slowly opened her eyes after fresh bandages had been wrapped and dismissed the maid. Once the maid left after putting everything away, Jun Huang sat up from the bed and flung back the light blankets. She walked up to the window and looked out at the plants in the garden, gazing down at the people Qi Chen had just brought over.
The man and woman were quietly talking to each other. On the surface, it looked like Qi Chen was afraid something would happen to her again and had sent them to make sure everything stayed fine and proper for her. Jun Huang laughed to herself when her thoughts travelled here. Who could easily harm her these days? But she was quick witted and had already perceived the importance of these developments. She had to update Qi Yun on this as soon as possible. Jun Huang closed the window as she frowned in thought and returned to the study to take out a brush and paper 1.
She only put brush to paper after mulling over her words many times. Elegant letters flowed from her brush, as she made sure to use moderate force and concise language in her note. After finishing and putting away her tools, Jun Huang put away the note in a fragrance pouch that she always carried on her, flung on an outer coat and prepared to go on her way.
“Where is the gentleman headed to?” Wei Qian quickly walked over when she saw that Jun Huang was about to set out.
“What, do I need the lady’s permission before going anywhere?” Jun Huang arched her eyebrow. She knew full well that she couldn’t afford to indicate weakness in front of Wei Qian.
“Wei Qian is just worried for the gentleman’s health and means nothing else. If anything happens to you, His Highness will never forgive us.” Wei Qian gave a cupped fist salute upon hearing Jun Huang’s words.
Both a hard and soft approach, she’s definitely someone that Qi Chen’s taught, alright. Jun Huang smirked coldly inwardly, looking steadily at Wei Qian. After a long moment of staring, the latter frantically ducked her head and looked down at the ground. Wei Qian never been assessed like this by a man, and her heart felt like it would pound straight out of her chest. A blush streaked up her neck as she lost her words for a moment.
Seeing that she’d attained the result she wanted, Jun Huang curved her lips. “I’m just finding it a tad stuffy after staying within the manor for so long. The doctor has also said that I might develop new ailments if I spend too much time indoors. If you’re not at ease letting me go out by myself, then you can follow me.”
Wei Qian took in the noncommittal expression on Jun Huang’s face and weighed all aspects of the situation. At long last, she finally nodded and followed Jun Huang out of the manor.
The streets were filled with a lively hubbub as various vendors cried for attention. Although night had fallen, there were still many who were shopping the night market. Numerous stalls, filled with pretty baubles, enticed passersby to pause and take a look. Wei Qian hadn’t anticipated so many people outside and tensed up, afraid that danger would find Jun Huang.
Jun Huang, on the other hand, was completely relaxed. She was having a grand time strolling through the streets. The gentle night breeze was very comfortable, and she actually felt a bit speechless at Wei Qian’s nervousness.
“This gentleman, come take a look at my hairpins! You can give one to the beautiful lady behind you.” A street vendor specializing in jewelry suddenly called out to Jun Huang. Jun Huang paused and tilted her head in a sideways glance, noting that the girl waving to her was actually one of Qi Yun’s subordinates. She was using their agreed upon sign. Jun Huang immediately understood the girl’s intentions and led Wei Qian over.
Wei Qian wasn’t like any of the other girls on the street, her gaze had never once wandered too far away from Jun Huang as she monitored the immediate premises. She didn’t pay any attention at all to the stall. Jun Huang was quite resigned and could only lower her head to look at the exquisitely crafted hairpins. She selected one of the simpler ones at random and stuck it in front of Wei Qian, “Do you like it?”
Wei Qian hadn’t thought that Jun Huang would ask her a question so suddenly and involuntarily took a step back in her surprise. But she soon recovered enough to cough lightly, “The gentleman should pick what you like. This subordinate has no place to use this in normal circumstances.”
Although that was her response, Jun Huang was insistent on gifting it to her. Wei Qian had no choice but to accept. However, she knew that this was a show of favor that she would have to return to Sir Feng someday in the future. She looked down at the wooden hairpin in her hand, lost in thought. Jun Huang reached for her fragrance pouch without a change in expression and handed the note over along with her money.
She was now in noticeably much better spirits now that she’d gotten her message out. Wei Qian however, thought that Jun Huang was in a happier mood because she’d seen the night scenery of Northern Qi.
The breeze began to grow stronger as night began to deepen. Jun Huang began to grow tired after yet more strolling and returned to the Prince Chen Manor. She went to bed not long after returning to her residence.
Wei Qian looked closely at the wooden hairpin in her hand under the candlelight. She didn’t know what Sir Feng had meant by this. Had he given it to her because he wanted to bribe her, or because he liked her. The thoughts of a girl swirled, unreadable on her face, but she put away the hairpin carefully in the end. She would even take it out from time to time to wipe it off as she was afraid that it would get dusty.
Jun Huang’s wound had mostly healed over after a short period of time. On one particular day, Qi Chen sent servants early in the morning to invite her for tea and breakfast. Jun Huang didn’t decline the invitation and headed directly over after dressing appropriately. Qi Chen walked over to greet her personally when he saw her arrive. “You’re finally here, Brother Feng. I’ve waited a while for you.”
Jun Huang exchanged a few simple pleasantries with Qi Chen before taking her seat. The two chit chatted on and off for a few minutes. After roughly ten minutes, a pageboy came in to report that servants had come from the palace. The emperor had summoned him to discuss some important matters.
Qi Chen looked at Jun Huang with furrowed brows. She took another sip of tea before speaking slowly. “The emperor is surely summoning Your Highness because of the natural disaster on Northern Qi’s borders.”
“Right, that must be the case. There’s been an endless stream of reports about this disaster over the past couple of days. Royal father must be summoning me to discuss it. Then what does Brother Feng think should be done here?” Qi Chen looked at Jun Huang meaningfully, wanting her to brainstorm a plan for him on the spot.
“Chaos encroaches on the world these days, and hearts are even more frightened on the border. The timing of this disaster will naturally affect them even more. If a villain were to purposefully cause trouble at this moment, Northern Qi may lose the support of its people. So the most pressing concern at the moment is to calm the people’s hearts.” Jun Huang responded thoughtfully after a few minutes of musing.
“Then does Brother Feng have a good strategy?” Qi Chen nodded after hearing these words, feeling that Jun Huang made a lot of sense.
Jun Huang dimpled and drew close to Qi Chen, murmuring lowly in his ear for a while. Qi Chen’s brows slowly relaxed from its tightly knit position as he listened. He clapped Jun Huang’s shoulder when she was finished and grinned brazenly. “That is a wonderful plan! My royal father will certainly be happy to hear it. Then I’ll be on my way to the palace.” Qi Chen stood up and left, all smiles.
Jun Huang remained in the pavilion and smiled. As she sipped her tea, she mused to herself. Qi Yun should’ve received my note by now. I just need to wait for the opportunity to meet him and insert some of his men into Qi Chen’s circle.