Chapter 48: Marriage Alliance
Wei Qian was well-trained in martial arts. Qi Chen, however, was no match for the professional assassins. Just when he was going to be hit by a single-edge sword, Nan Guyue tackled him without thinking.
In that split second, Jun Huang poisoned the attacker to stop him, but she wasn't fast enough. Fortunately Wei Qian hit the sword with a stone. Nan Guyue was still hit in the back, but only by the back of the blade.
She winced and fell into Qi Chen's arms, spitting out a mouthful of blood. Her lungs and spleen had been damaged. Jun Huang took out a few silver needles and threw them at the remaining assassins. They widened their eyes in shock and fell to the ground.
Qi Chen held onto Nan Guyue, his clothes soaked with cold sweat. He looked at her with nervous eyes. "Princess?"
Jun Huang walked up to them with a frown and took Nan Guyue's wrist to feel her pulse. She let out a sigh of relief. "Don't worry, Your Royal Highness. The princess will be fine. She just lost consciousness from the blow. She'll soon recover."
Qi Chen felt tension drain out of his body. He was so close to dying. And he was so close to losing his pawn.
Wei Qian came up to them and showed them a jade pendant. It was found on the leader of the assassins. She handed it to Qi Chen respectfully. Qi Chen widened his eyes. A whirlwind of emotions flashed through his face.
"Is something wrong?" Jun Huang could tell this was no simple matter by Qi Chen's reaction. She was worried Qi Yun may have sent out the men without fully grasping the situation.
"This belongs to the empress," Qi Chen said coldly and scoffed. He ordered Wei Qian to escort Jun Huang back to the manor. He himself carried Nan Guyue into the coach and left for the palace.
Without asking, Jun Huang understood what he was going to do. She sighed. The empress was pitiful, and those who were pitiful were often hateful as well. The fact that she was suffering only attracted more scorn.
Once in the palace, Qi Chen carried Nan Guyue to the emperor's bedroom and dropped down to his knees in front of the door. His expression was frosty to the point that it hurt to look at him. None of the eunuchs dared to ask him what happened, but the unconscious Nan Guyue in his arms was a clear enough indication that something was wrong. One of the eunuchs hurried inside to notify the emperor.
"Your Majesty, the crown prince would like to see you," the eunuch said carefully.
The emperor looked up from the reports he was approving. It had been a while since the last time Qi Chen visited. He wondered what his son was here for this time. For a moment he didn't say anything.
The eunuch saw the change in the emperor's expression. He took a deep breath. "Princess Nan Guyue was here as well."
The emperor put down the report. "Hurry and let them in."
The emperor was shocked when Qi Chen carried Nan Guyue inside. He immediately sent for the royal doctor and helped Qi Chen settle Nan Guyue on an empress chair by the wall. "What happened?"
"This son invited the princess to go out of the city and enjoyed the scenery, but someone sent out assassins to attack us on our way. The princess was hurt." Qi Chen lowered his eyes and took out the dark green jade pendant. How could the emperor not recognize it? He flew into a rage and went straight to the palace the empress resided in.
It was during daytime. The empress never expected the emperor to take time out of his busy schedule to visit her. She quickly recovered from her shock and bowed to him. "This wife did not know Your Majesty was here. If Your Majesty has felt unwelcomed, I beg you for your forgiveness."
The emperor looked her straight in the eyes until she started feeling guilty. She was right to be concerned. The emperor threw a pendant at her feet. Her face paled when she saw it.
"My wife, you have disappointed me. How could you do something so foolish? If Nan Guyue had been murdered here, Southern Mu would wage war against Northern Qi!"
The empress felt weak in the knees and she fell to the floor, her eyes unfocused. She was blinded by her urge to get revenge. Now she could see how big a mistake she'd made. Her neck became visibly soaked in sweat.
The emperor looked at her. This woman had been his wife for decades. He sighed and shook his head. "For your mistake, I will take away your title as the empress. From now on, you will stay in the palace and behave yourself." He left without a glance back.
What happened in the palace didn't just stay in the palace. Nan Jihan came to find Nan Guyue the moment he heard about his little sister's injury. And he was the first thing Nan Guyue saw when she came to.
She blinked. Where's Qi Chen? In panic, Nan Guyue struggled to get up and grabbed Nan Jihan by his arm. "Big brother, have you seen Qi Chen? Is he alright? Where is he?"
Nan Jihan looked towards the door with a scowl. Nan Guyue followed his line of sight and saw Qi Chen pacing outside the room. Her heart soared at the sight of him. "Come in, Qi Chen!"
Earlier, Qi Chen was kicked out of the room by Nan Jihan. Now, hearing Nan Guyue calling out for him, he entered without hesitation. Nan Guyue sat on the bed grinning at him. He relaxed, his worried expression melting into a smile.
The emperor returned not long after. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw Nan Guyue was alright.
"Do you still feel unwell, princess?" the emperor asked.
Nan Guyue shook her head. She was about to say something when Nan Jihan cut her off. "Shouldn't Your Majesty give us an explanation for what took place today?"
"What are you talking about, brother?" Nan Guyue budged in. "What does this have to do with them?"
Qi Chen shifted his gaze to her and took a deep breath. "Everything that happened today happened because of me. I'm willing to take full responsibility."
"Don't say that!" She looked over to Nan Jihan and the emperor. "I hereby announce that I will marry no one but Qi Chen! This has nothing to do with him. I would be dead if not for Qi Chen."
Everyone was stunned silent. The first to recover was the emperor. "Does the princess mean what you have said?"
"Of course I do." Nan Guyue threw caution to the wind and looked at Qi Chen with a fierce determination. She had a feeling that if she didn't speak her mind now, she would lose Qi Chen forever.
Qi Chen held her gaze, his breathing shallow. It took some time for him to regain the ability to think properly.
Nan Guyue smiled at him. "Qi Chen, I'm asking you to marry me. Are you willing to?"
Nan Guyue's eyes were filled with emotions. Qi Chen nodded and gave her a brilliant smile. "If the princess is willing to take me as your husband, of course I will take you as my wife."
The emperor didn't give Nan Jihan the chance to argue. "Since the princess and Chen'er hold such deep feelings for each other, I hereby approve of their marriage."
Nan Jihan listened to them rushing to finish each other's sentences. He could see how happy Nan Guyue was. In the end he didn't argue. He could only hope that she would be happy. She had chosen her own path and she would have to live with her choice.
In less than a day, the news that Northern Qi and Southern Mu was going to form a marriage alliance had spread throughout the whole city. Nan Jihan sent a messenger to report this back to Southern Mu. And Nan Guyue waited at the relay station, giddily waiting for Qi Chen to marry her.
Qi Chen went straight to the side building once he returned to the manor. Jun Huang was watering the plants there. She looked like she was enjoying herself.
Qi Chen laughed. "Brother Feng always looks so at ease."
Jun Huang turned around to face him, her lips quirked up. "And Your Royal Highness must be happy. Congratulation on getting the girl."
Qi Chen's smile grew wider. Nan Guyue would soon be his. He couldn't be more satisfied.
"It's all thanks to brother Feng's plan. Otherwise, Nan Guyue would not have agreed to a marriage."
Jun Huang met his eyes. "If Your Royal Highness is willing to put your trust in me, this gentleman would like to be your wedding planner this time."
Qi Chen hesitated. He was the crown prince now. His wedding should be held by the Ministry of Rites. Jun Huang, however, had earned his genuine affection. He nodded after some consideration. "Then I'll leave it in your capable hands. I know you won't disappoint me."
Qi Chen let Jun Huang take full charge of the wedding. And he announced that if anyone defied Jun Huang, he would take it as a personal offense to him. With that, no one dared to say no to her.
Jun Huang went to visit Rou'er and, without ceremony, she said, "I'm sure the fourth prince has told you about the plan. Now that I'm in charge of the wedding, you can go take care of recruiting the right people. I'll need them tomorrow."
Rou'er dropped her guise as a frail woman. Her expression turned so cold it made her look like a completely different person. She put a lamp outside when no one was watching.
One of Qi Yun's people had been waiting outside the manor. He saw the signal and went off to make preparations.
The next day, Jun Huang left the manor early in the morning and went to the place that sold servants. Indeed, Qi Yun's people were there. They were all highly skilled fighters, but they looked just like any ordinary citizen within the city.
Wei Qian, however, was observant. She stopped one of the men Jun Huang picked and hit him.
She certainly didn't pull her punches. The man with strong shoulders and arms was knock off to the ground. He spat out a mouthful of blood. All around them people were staring and muttering.
"What are you doing, Wei Qian?" Jun Huang snarled. "Don't forget what the crown prince said. Are you questioning my decision?"
Wei Qian lowered her eyes. "I have made a mistake. I ask for the gentleman to punish me."
Jun Huang huffed and helped the man up. Then she left with the people she picked, ignoring Wei Qian completely. Wei Qian stood there for a long time with a bitter smile. She couldn't express how helpless she was feeling.