Chapter 44: Rou'er entering the Manor
Deep into the night, the air turned humid and brisk. Jun Huang, with the poison still in her system, was more susceptible to the cold than others. She trembled and sneezed. Wei Qian quickly took a robe from the bedroom and put it over Jun Huang's shoulders. "It's late, sir. You should turn in, or you'll get sick."
Jun Huang waved her hand in the air. "I'm fine. The prince is in such a good mood. I wouldn't want to ruin it."
Qi Chen frowned. "Wei Qian is right. My good mood isn't that rare. If brother Feng catches a cold, I will feel guilty. It's late. Go back to your room and rest." He reached out his hands to help Jun Huang up, but she stood up before he could. His hands brushed against her cool fingertips, which made him even more concerned.
Jun Huang coughed, her face a little pale. "Then this gentleman will take his leave. If Your Highness doesn't mind staying here, the servants can prepare a room for you." With that, She returned to her bedroom.
Qi Chen didn't want to go back to the room he shared with Wei Lanying, so he decided to stay. Wei Qian had a room prepared for him.
Wei Lanying waited in the bedroom, scowling. Her teeth clenched so hard together that they might break any second. And she had her hand tight around a teacup as if she was going to crush it.
Her personal maid was worried about her, and she had been scolded by Qi Chen earlier as well. She couldn't help but say, "Lady Wei, it's all Feng Baiyu's fault. The prince values him too much! It's a good thing Feng Baiyu isn't a woman. Otherwise, you'll have no place even in this spacious manor. If you ask me, I'd say Feng Baiyu smells of trouble and should be dealt with immediately."
Wei Lanying turned to look at her and saw the murderous gleam in her eyes. She herself didn't like Feng Baiyu either, but she didn't dare to do anything to him with Qi Chen backing him up. Feng Baiyu was not someone she could touch.
The servant she sent to retrieve Qi Chen came back. He cupped his hands in greeting. "Lady Wei, the prince went straight to the side building after leaving. This servant couldn't get in, so I waited outside. Now the door has been shut, and still the prince hasn't come out. It seems that he is staying there for the night."
Wei Lanying widened her eyes, her body trembling in anger. She took a deep breath and shattered the teacup on the floor. The pieces splattered everywhere.
"Feng Baiyu, from now on you are my enemy. You better not let me catch you doing things you shouldn't be doing." Her eyes blazed with hatred. The people around her shuddered at the sight.
Wei Lanying couldn't fall asleep. She was still wide awake even when the day broke. She looked sick. In panic, the maid rushed to the side building and ran into Qi Chen, who just woke up and was about to leave.
"It's inappropriate to run around like this," Qi Chen said coolly.
The maid dropped down to her knees on the pebble road. Even the onlookers grimaced in sympathy, but she didn't so much as frown. "Your Highness! Your Highness didn't return yesterday and Lady Wei waited the whole night for you. Even now she isn't willing to sleep. Please, for the sake of your marital bond, forgive her and tell her to get some rest."
Qi Chen frowned. It was to Wei Lanying's credit that he became the crown prince. He couldn't be so cold-blooded and let her harm herself without doing anything. He followed the maid to the bedroom.
Jun Huang walked out of her room dressed in a loose robe, watching Qi Chen and the maid leave. An indiscernible smile caught on her lips.
For the past few days, Jun Huang had been thinking about how she should deal with Wei Lanying. Wei Lanying was troublesome, but it would be a hinder to her cause to waste too much time on Wei Lanying. She had to find a way to divert Wei Lanying's attention.
Recently, Wei Lanying had been keeping an unusually close eyes on the side building, as if she was worried that Jun Huang would do something wrong. Qi Chen, for reasons unknown to her, had become more and more distant to Wei Lanying. It'd been days since the last time he visited her in her room. Instead, he had been spending a lot of time here with Jun Huang.
Qi Yun sent a message saying that he had picked someone to infiltrate Prince Chen Manor. Jun Huang only needed to introduce the spy to Qi Chen. That was her opportunity.
Jun Huang was in the yard with Qi Chen when she made her first move. "Your Highness – Your Royal Highness. You have been staying here a lot lately. Won't Lady Wei feel hurt?"
Qi Chen waved his hand in exasperation. "Brother Feng is single. You don't know how difficult marriage can be."
Jun Huang let out a low laugh. "Your Royal Highness can tell me your complaints, but if Lady Wei hears you, she will make a fuss. Women are meant to be spoiled. Your Royal Highness is – "
"That was what I used to think as well. Wei Lanying, though, isn't tender at all, nor is she understanding. What else should I do?" Qi Chen took the cup of tea that had been on the table for a while and took a gulp, his movement too sudden for Jun Huang to stop him. Immediately, Qi Chen spat out the bitter tea all over the ground.
Jun Huang covered up her smile. "Your Royal Highness is in a bad mood. How about I accompany you on a walk? You may feel better."
"Brother Feng is right." Qi Chen got to his feet and walked out of the manor with Jun Huang by his side.
They walked along the busy main street of the imperial city. Qi Chen waved his fan like a young man born into a rich family. Jun Huang, on the other hand, was as elegant as a celestial being. Following behind them was Wei Qian, who carried a sword on her back. They had become the center of people's attention without realizing it.
Being a crown prince meant that everyone now recognized Qi Chen. Every once in a while, there would be people coming up to him to pay respect to him. He always gestured at them to be at ease. It was a rare sunny day. Qi Chen's dark mood soon dissipated.
Not far away, there was a woman standing on a bridge, her face obscured by her tears. Her skin was unusually pale. And she was sobbing her eyes out, about to jump into the river.
There were an army of people trying to convince her to get down. The crowd attracted a lot of attention. Qi Chen's curiosity was piqued and he jogged up to the crowd, dragging Jun Huang with him. When he got close, he saw how beautiful the woman was. Despite her clothes being made of cheap fabric, she was still a sight to behold with those brilliant eyes of hers.
Jun Huang recognized her from Prince Yun Manor. They met once before. Now she knew this was a ploy to catch Qi Chen's attention.
Men probably all loved a damsel in distress. In no time, Qi Chen had forced his way through the crowd and held onto the woman's wrist. "Why does the lady seek death?"
The woman looked up at him with eyes filled with emotions. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. She was heartbreaking to look at. "The gentleman would not know. I lived in a village not far from the imperial city. My father was beaten to death by a thug, and the thug tried to assault me. My father once said that we had relatives in the imperial city. I came here as the last resort. Those relatives, however, are selfish and greedy. They would not take me in. I have nowhere to go. It's better that I die here."
Qi Chen's heart ached for her. He hurriedly said, "If you don't mind, you may stay at my manor for the time being. Don't do this to yourself. Please get down here. There's always a way out."
The woman appeared to be conflicted, but in the end she nodded, wiping her tears away. With Qi Chen's help, she walked to a tea stand near the bridge. Jun Huang ordered a pot of tea for them, her eyes never leaving Qi Chen and the woman.
When the tea was served, Qi Chen poured the woman a cup. "What should I call you?"
"The gentleman may call me Rou'er." She lowered her eyes bashfully.
Qi Chen nodded. "I'm Qi Chen." He then pointed at Jun Huang. "This is Feng Baiyu, my honored guest and someone I call brother."
Rou'er shot up to her feet. The teacup in her hand dropped to the floor, but it was sturdy enough that it didn't shatter. Rou'er knelt down and lowered her head. "This woman failed to recognize the crown prince. If I have offended Your Highness, I beg you for your forgiveness."
"There's no need for that, Rou'er. Be at ease." He helped her get up and even bent down to pat her dress clean. Rou'er seemed completely overwhelmed and didn't know what to do.
Jun Huang gave her a good look and smiled. This woman really was a good actress. A tender woman like Rou'er would be able to compete with Wei Lanying for Qi Chen's attention. She could also become their inside woman. If they needed to plant more people around Qi Chen, Rou'er could do that with a few choice words.
She would be a great help. Wei Lanying wouldn't have the time and effort to keep her eyes on Jun Huang anymore.
Rou'er threw a brief glance at Jun Huang. When Qi Chen straightened up, she blushed at him helplessly, which made Qi Chen feel even more protective of her.
As Jun Huang expected, after Qi Chen brought Rou'er back to the manor, Wei Lanying immediately pulled away the people she had watching the side building and went straight to Qi Chen's room. Who the hell is this Rou'er?
Rou'er had changed into some clean clothes. Wei Lanying glared at her. "Where did you come from, you slutty girl? You dare to come to the prince manor and seduce the crown prince? Tell me, who sent you?"
"Rou'er doesn't understand. The crown prince took pity on me and took the homeless Rou'er in. Rou'er isn't what the lady said I was."
Wei Lanying's eyes grew sharper and she slapped her without thinking. Rou'er fell to the floor like a frail girl, trembling. Her tears streamed down her face like a pearl necklace with a broken string.
Qi Chen had witnessed everything from the front door. He rushed in and grabbed Wei Lanying's wrist, using so much force that he left a mark on her.
"Wei Lanying, do you know what you're doing? As a concubine of the crown prince, don't you think you've overstepped your boundaries?" Qi Chen flung her hand away and knelt down to help Rou'er up.
Rou'er looked at him with teary eyes. "You must not get angry at Lady Wei for Rou'er, Your Royal Highness. She must have gotten angry because Rou'er did something wrong."