Chapter 30: Setting Up the Pieces
Qi Chen pursed his lips and took a deep breath, barely managing to suppress his anger. "Big brother has been grounded for so long," he said. "Today is the day you are freed from your confinement. I, naturally have to pay you a visit."
"It is said that second brother has been busy lately. I didn't expect you to still be keeping an eye on my manor. If someone with ulterior motives were to hear about this, rumors may start." Qi Yin stared at Qi Chen, his tone purposefully calm, but every word out of his mouth was a jab at Qi Chen. "It is best for second brother to stop fooling around. Read some more books, even. Still better than dreaming of impossible things. Does my brother agree with me?"
Qi Chen balled his hands up tightly into fists, his fingernails digging into his palms. He clenched his teeth and took a moment to calm himself before saying, "Big brother has spoken correctly. I will keep your words in mind."
Qi Chen didn't want to stand around embarrassing himself any further. He was about to take his leave when someone from the palace bumped into them.
"Well, well, both princes are indeed here," the eunuch said with a high-pitched voice, fawning over Qi Chen. "This old servant has been looking for the second prince for quite some time."
Qi Chen frowned. "May I ask why you were looking for me?"
"The crown prince has been ungrounded. His Majesty asked me to invite the two princes to the palace for tea."
Qi Chen nodded and turned to look at Qi Yin. "Big brother, let us hurry and enter the palace together."
The eunuch was an observant one. He knew that even though Qi Chen was the favored prince now, as long as the emperor did not make someone else the crown prince, Qi Yin maintained his title. If one day Qi Yin inherited the throne, he would be the one in charge.
The eunuch put on a smile and approached Qi Yin. "Your Highness, is there anything you need to prepare for?"
Qi Yin cursed the eunuch under his breath for being a petty brown-nose. He huffed and left with a wave of his sleeve. The eunuch pursed his lips and followed.
Qi Chen scoffed silently. Qi Yin had been grounded once already, and still he was so prideful. He still considered himself superior to everyone.
Qi Chen could already picture the moment Qi Yin fell from grace in his mind. Oh, how desperate would he be! An indescribable rush of ecstasy suddenly hit him. He could barely stop himself from dragging Qi Yin down right this moment and have him at his mercy.
When they arrived at the palace, the emperor and Qi Yun were watching a play in the theater garden. The eunuch took the princes straight to them.
Qi Chen went straight for the seat right next to the emperor – during the time when Qi Yin was grounded, he was considered to be of the second highest rank here. That was why he got used to taking the second most important spot. Seeing this, Qi Yin sneered, "What does second brother take me for?"
Qi Chen suddenly realized that things had changed as Qi Yin had left the crown prince manor today. He hurriedly stood up and was for a moment too embarrassed to do anything. Qi Yun picked up the teacup and took a sip, watching them with cool eyes.
The emperor looked at Qi Yin with a frown before shifting his gaze to Qi Chen. It made Qi Chen's skin crawl. After weighing his options, he dropped down to his knees before the emperor. "I beg Royal Father for forgiveness. This son of your's did not mean to offend his big brother – "
"Enough. Say no more. I have made my own conclusion. At ease." The emperor looked over at Qi Yin and sighed. "Yin'er, it seems that even after your punishment, you still do not know how you should carry yourself." His tone was dripping with disappointment. "Ah, what should I do with you?"
Only then did Qi Yin figure out that Qi Chen was setting him up. Angered boiled up in his head, but on the surface, he had to pretend to be apologetic. He lowered his eyes looking at Qi Chen. "I was impulsive. I didn’t mean to put second brother on the spot."
"Big brother worries himself too much," said Qi Chen. He took the seat next to Qi Yun and left the one next to the emperor to Qi Yin. Qi Yin did not hesitate before sitting down with his head held high. This spot was meant to be his.
Qi Yun put down the teacup and looked at Qi Chen. The gears in his head were turning, but he chose to stay on the sideline and quietly observe everyone.
Earlier, before Qi Chen and Qi Yin arrived, the emperor had a private meeting with an official. Qi Yun tried to find out the official's identity, but the emperor gave him no clear answer. Instead, he talked quite a bit about Qi Chen.
The emperor said that he had wronged Qi Chen, that Qi Chen was loyal and level-headed, that he took after the emperor himself. All these proved that the emperor valued Qi Chen greatly, which led Qi Yun to the conclusion that the official must have been one of Chi Chen's confidantes. But alas, he would never know who it was.
During the performance, the emperor did not say anything to the recently freed Qi Yin. And afterwards, he only asked Qi Chen to stay. That added fuel to the fiery resentment Qi Yin harbored towards Qi Chen.
On the way out, Qi Yun trailed after the others, his steps unhurried. He cut a calm and elegant figure. On the contrary, Qi Yin was at the front of the group, boiling with rage. He even ended up taking his anger out on the flowers in the garden, sending flower petals flying everywhere.
Qi Yun let out a sigh. He approached Qi Yin. "Big brother is upset, but why take it out on innocent plants? I have no other matter to attend to. If big brother is free, may I have a drink with you?"
Qi Yin turned to look at Qi Yun. He took a deep breath to bottle up his rage. "I have matters to deal with at my manor. Third brother is free to do as you please." With that, he left immediately.
Qi Yun looked at him go. He took a moment to think. Then he left the palace and went straight to where he had agreed to meet Jun Huang. As he walked, his thoughts became more and more of a tangled mess.
It may be that Feng Baiyu looked similar to Jun Huang. It may be that Feng Baiyu himself was a sight to behold. Either way he couldn't help but want to get close to him.
When Qi Yun reached the meeting point, Jun Huang was waiting for him.
"My apologies. Have I kept you waiting for long?" Qi Yun stopped next to Jun Huang. Again, the only thing he could focus on was her familiar eyes.
"Let us get down to business." Jun Huang said without ceremony. "Have you received the letter I sent you a few days ago?"