Chapter 672: I Have a Friend

Little He and Little Xu were skeptical when they heard what he said. Surely this fellow is bragging, right? The lesser tutor had tried to teach the crown prince many things before. Leaving aside the crown prince not being able to learn anything, not even the two of them, who had been watching from the sidelines, understood any of it.

The crown princess was known for her intelligence, and even she had tried to tutor the crown prince in private, yet he still didn’t learn anything. She’d been so upset that she refused to teach him anything anymore.

Where the heck did this fellow get his confidence from? How could he claim that it was a simple matter?

Zu An took a seat across from the crown prince. He picked up the Go board and the pieces. Then, he began to explain the rules.

“Huh? So I just need to connect five pieces in a row to win? That’s so easy![1] Those fellows always act so high and mighty, and it made me think that it was a really hard game.” The crown prince was overcome with excitement, acting as though he was a genius.

It didn’t take long for him to be utterly crushed by Zu An. He couldn’t continue this and said, “Enough, enough. Go attend to your duties. Little He, come play with me.”

Little He and Little Xu were stunned as well. Is Go really that easy? They picked it up pretty quickly as well. However, they didn’t dare to play as mercilessly as Zu An did. They secretly threw the games, and before long, the crown prince was grinning from ear to ear.

While they were busy doing what they were doing, Zu An took the opportunity to head into the inner room and pay the crown princess a visit.

The crown princess was sitting in front of a mirror, grooming herself. She pressed the back of her hands against her cheeks, as though checking to see how hot her face was.

She immediately put away her ‘young lady yearning for love’ act. With a light cough, she regained her usual dignified appearance. “What’s the crown prince doing outside that’s making such a ruckus?”

“Ah, they’re playing Go outside.” The simplified version of five-in-a-row, Zu An added inwardly.

“Go?” The crown princess snorted. She’d clearly been reminded of something unpleasant.

She wasn’t about to waste any more time on the crown prince. “What do you need?” she asked.

“I didn’t acquire any new information when I went to the imperial prison,” reported Zu An.

He didn’t dare to tell her about King Qi ‘rescuing’ the prisoners, knowing that she would use that information to launch another attack on King Qi’s faction in the imperial court. That would create a huge uproar, and matters would go completely differently from how he wanted them to.

The crown princess grunted in acknowledgement. She clearly hadn’t placed much hope on this matter either.

“By the way, why did the emperor suddenly summon you?” asked the crown princess. She really couldn’t fathom why the emperor had any need for him.

“His Majesty heard that King Qi summoned me, so he called me over to instruct me to do my utmost to help the crown prince and princess,” replied Zu An.

The crown princess was startled. “Was that really what His Majesty said?”

“Would I dare lie to you?” replied Zu An. “Even if His Majesty hadn’t said that, I would still strive to do my utmost until the day of my death.”

“Strive to do your utmost until the day of your death…” The crown princess repeated his words. She hadn’t expected this person to have some talent in literature as well.[2] I suppose I’ve underestimated him. However, she wasn’t the gullible sort. Instead, she looked at him with clear, bright eyes. “Why would you go that far?”

Zu An locked gazes with her. “Of course it’s because of the crown princess…”

The crown princess’ expression flickered when she heard what he said, but he continued on, “Because the crown princess protected me from King Qi earlier on. Even though I’m not that well-educated, I still know what it is to repay a debt. I will surely do my best to help the crown princess.”

Relief flooded the crown princess. “It’s rare to see loyalty like yours,” she replied. “As long as you continue to do your duty for the sake of the eastern palace,  both the crown prince and I will never treat you unfairly.”

For some reason, this man’s speech patterns reminded her of Lord Eleven. However, she immediately dismissed the thought. How could that even be possible? The two of them were simply too different!

She felt her heart thumping as soon as Lord Eleven came to mind. Why did he say something like that?

Could he have been teasing me?

But how could he be so daring? I’m a glorious crown princess, and he is a member of the Embroidered Envoy, who protects the royal family… How could he…

Perhaps I’m overthinking things? Perhaps that wasn’t his intention.

When these thoughts came to her, she quickly stopped Zu An. “Wait!”

Zu An turned around and looked at her in confusion.

The crown princess’ cheeks turned red. “I have a friend who’s been having a problem that she can’t figure out. I’d like to ask Lord Zu for your advice.”

Zu An was stunned. What is this woman going to ask me? “Please speak your mind, crown princess.”

How was he to know that she was about to ask him a question that she could not ask anyone else close to her, and that she would experience absolute social death if she did so? Besides, those around her were all either eunuchs or maids, and the only one who she could perhaps talk to was a total idiot. She had no one else to speak with! Thankfully, Zu An wasn’t that close to her, and he came from a rather common background. He might be able to offer her a different perspective.

The crown princess paused for a moment, as if considering her words. “That friend of mine—it’s really my friend!” She looked into his eyes and emphasized the point, as though afraid that he might somehow miss it.

Zu An couldn’t help but chuckle. “Enough, enough. I know that it’s definitely not you, crown princess.”

The crown princess’ face flushed red. “She knows a man,” she continued, “and she has a wonderful impression of this man. However, one day, that man suddenly told me… Ahem, he said some weird things to my friend. I don’t understand what he meant by it at all.”

Realization dawned on Zu An. “That person said something strange to you… to your friend?”

“Yes… yes…” The crown princess said, sounding slightly uncertain.

However, she still told him what Golden Token Eleven said. Then, she added, “My friend is a rather special person, so she doesn’t have any chance of being with that man. He knows this as well, but he still said what he said. How could he say something like that?”

Zu An had a strange look on his face. He never expected that the words he’d spoken in order to help Yun Jianyue out of her predicament would have left this woman so troubled. He had to explain himself. “Perhaps that man just has that sort of character. Perhaps it was just a casual comment, and he didn’t mean anything more by it. Perhaps there was no hidden meaning behind his words.”

Unfortunately, the crown princess immediately glared at him and said, “Nonsense! That man is mature and steadfast! Do you think that he’s as frivolous as you?”

Zu An was speechless. I guess once you fall for someone, you perceive them through rose-tinted lenses. You’ll only ever think good things about that person. He couldn’t resist saying with a mysterious smile, “It seems the crown princess is quite familiar with this person.”

The crown princess’ heart rate immediately quickened when she heard what he said, and she realized that she was behaving rather improperly. “My friend told me all of these things,” she added quickly.

Zu An did not expose her secret. “Perhaps that person has a good opinion of you… of your friend. Even though he knows that there’s no chance of anything happening, he was powerless to hold himself back. That was why he ended up saying something so ambiguous to you… to your friend… in order to express his love.”

As a successful sea king, he always endeavored to funnel the fish into his side of the sea, regardless of whether these fish were useful or not.[3]

“Oh?” The crown princess’ lips rounded into a large ‘O’. Her heart began to pound. Could that have been what Lord Eleven meant?

But… but our identities… how can we…

When she’d first met the crown prince, she thought that he was just a bit slow. She tried all sorts of different ways to teach him and change him, yet he remained an idiot throughout the entire process. After countless attempts, she finally gave up.

She’d married the crown prince mainly for her family’s sake. Neither side felt anything for each other. When she saw that he couldn’t be molded in any way, her heart slowly turned to stone.

Strangely, though, this stone-cold heart was now beating fiercely. She felt full of energy, as though anticipating that the next moment of life would bring something new and exciting.

Is this the power of love? She was so frightened by this thought that her cheeks, which were red from blushing, turned a deathly white. She immediately killed off this thought, then looked at Zu An. “My friend holds a special identity, so you cannot tell anyone about this. If she ever finds a reason to come after you, you won’t be able to handle the consequences.”

Zu An forced a smile. “Don’t worry. I don’t have a loose tongue.”

I wonder what she would do the day she finds out my real identity. Perhaps she’d be so embarrassed that she would stomp out an area as large as a family dwelling.

That scene was something worth looking forward to.

1. Translator’s note: The game of Go is actually much more complex. Instead of playing the actual game, however, most people will play connect-five using the black and white pieces. That was how I played the game with my parents when I was younger.

2. This is a quote from one of the memorials written by Zhuge Liang during the Three Kingdoms period in China.

3. Sea king is slang for playboy.

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