Chapter 702: The Eastern Palace’s Predicament

After the crown princess gave her orders, she withdrew into the inner palace wearing a grim expression. Soon after, the eastern palace’s eunuchs and maids rushed out to spread the news.

Zu An was the only one who seemed to be at ease. It hadn’t been long since he had arrived at the eastern palace, so many officials didn’t know him. He wouldn’t know who to contact if he were given orders to spread the news, so he had nothing to do instead… No, he had a task. He was here to play five-in-a-row with the fatty.

Zu An absentmindedly played with the crown prince while asking, “Crown prince, what happened?”

“How would I know… Ah, you can’t put it there! I don’t care!” The crown prince blocked a spot on the game board, stopping Zu An from putting a piece there.

Zu An couldn’t help but chuckle. He took back his tile. What am I doing? Why am I asking this guy?

He had been about to ask the crown princess, but judging from how cold her expression had been just now, he was worried that now might really be a bad time. He thus prodded the fatty next to him and said, “Crown prince, something big seems to have happened. You’re not going to take a look?”

“It’s fine, we have Linglong to take care of it anyway.” The crown prince waved his hand in annoyance. His attention returned to the go board.

Zu An sighed. “The crown princess is still a woman in the end. She has her moments of weakness, you know?”

The crown prince said indifferently, “Linglong has been able to take care of everything all these years. Ah, stop talking about that and just play.”

Zu An was speechless as he thought, I can win easily even if I’m distracted, and yet you want me to play seriously? Just what the heck had the crown princess done in her past life for her to end up with this type of idiot?

But he didn’t have to worry about the royal family’s matters. He played with the crown prince while watching the surrounding activity.

Soon afterward, several officials rushed over. Most of them were elders and middle-aged men. He didn’t see many young people among them. They either had red-crowned cranes or qilins embroidered on their clothes.

These were clearly important officials of the court. The highest ranked civil officials had red-crowned cranes on their uniforms, while the highest ranked military officials had qilins.

Hm? There are python decorations too? Zu An’s eyes lit up. So it was an old acquaintance! It’s King Liang!

Another elder had arrived. Even though all of his hair was white and wrinkles covered his face, his eyes were still sharp. He carried a domineering aura. Furthermore, there was one more familiar figure there. General Liu Yao followed respectfully half a step behind him.

Zu An was stunned. The Liu Yao he remembered was so arrogant, his nose always pointed at the sky. He thought, Who the hell is this? He had just recently arrived at the capital after all, so he didn’t know that many people. However, he could ask the crown prince.

The crown prince gave that person a look and became so frightened his chubby face trembled. “That’s my grandpa…” He secretly hid his go piece under his seat while saying so. He looked terrified of the man.

Zu An realized who the elder was now. So it was the emperor’s father-in-law, the War Chariot General Liu Guang! The empress, as well as the former empress, were both this man’s daughters.

Liu Guang enjoyed great status because of his daughters, occupying the position of War Chariot General. In terms of the military system, his rank was second only to the Great General and White Rider General. His rank was even higher than that of the Qin clan’s state dukes.

Of course, military rank was one thing; real authority was something else. The Qin clan’s two state dukes had powerful men working under them, so their real authority was somewhat greater.

Liu Guang just happened to look in the direction of Zu An and the crown prince. He stormed over angrily. How could the crown prince’s movements escape his notice?

“Do you know what kind of situation we’re in right now? Crown prince, how can you still be playing around here?!” Liu Guang was furious. He pointed at Zu An and said, “Drag this fool who has tricked the crown prince into playing around down into the dungeons, to be flogged with a hundred strikes!”

Zu An’s expression changed. He was being punished just for being here! What the hell is going on today? Why do I keep encountering these ridiculous situations one after another?

Suddenly, Liu Yao ran over to his brother’s side and whispered a few words. Liu Guang’s expression changed a bit when he looked at Zu An. “Oh, so it was Zu An. You’ve done some work these past few days. But…”

Before he finished, his figure froze, as if he were listening to something. There seemed to be someone conversing with him through ki transmission. Soon after, he changed his tone. “Since you’re a newcomer, I won’t hold you responsible since you don’t know better. However, you’re the crown prince’s secretary and are in charge of overseeing the crown prince’s studies. Don’t behave willfully with the crown prince in the future.”

“Understood!” Zu An cupped his hands. “Thank you, senior.”

He was surprised. Had Liu Yao spoken up for him? But that didn’t make sense… They didn’t really share any friendship. Furthermore, it would make more sense for this man to hate him after what had happened in Brightmoon City.

Just then, the crown princess appeared nearby and said, “Everyone, please come in for the discussion.” She sounded extremely tired. However, that instead gave her voice a unique tone that sounded soothing to the ears. Zu An realized that it was the crown princess who had spoken up for him.

“Crown prince, please come inside as well. This matter has to do with you.” The crown princess then looked at Zu An, seemingly hesitant. However, when she considered how his status was a bit too low compared to Liu Guang and the others, she gave up on the thought of inviting him inside, as it would seem a bit too abrupt.

Liu Guang and the others followed her inside. After entering, he couldn’t help but say, “Linglong, you seem to value that brat quite a bit.”

The crown princess replied, “Even though Zu An seems a bit irresponsible on the surface, he is a rare genius. He has only been in the capital for a few days, and yet he has already made King Qi suffer greatly. I believe everyone has heard about how he broke Zhao Zhi’s legs yesterday as well?”

Liu Guang stroked his beard and said with a laugh, “That was the best piece of news I’ve heard in recent years. Looks like even King Qi and the others have their bad days!”

King Liang Zhaoyi added, “I have interacted with him before in Brightmoon City. Even though his bearing is rather ordinary, he is incredibly treacherous. He can turn peril into safety, causing his opponents to be badly humiliated instead of himself.”

Liu Yao, who was standing nearby, immediately became upset. “What are you looking at me for?”

King Liang replied, “I was just looking around.”

The crown princess quickly interrupted the two of them to prevent a dispute from starting. “It’s hard enough trying to rope someone like him in, so why is there a need to make him feel unwelcome over such a small matter? That was why I stopped senior earlier.”

Liu Guang nodded in agreement, but Liu Yao complained, “Linglong, aren’t you favoring him too much? He’s just a scoundrel from the streets. What’s so special about him? He’s just a bit lucky at most.”

The crown princess completely disregarded this simple-minded man and began to converse with the others.

Meanwhile, Zu An was chatting outside with Piao Duandiao and Jiao Sigun.

The two guards looked at him worshipfully. “Big bro, I thought that you were going to be punished by that great senior, but you’re still perfectly fine! I really, really admire you!”

Zu An rolled his eyes. “Why do I feel like you guys were hoping that I’ll get beaten?”

“Big bro, that’s a misunderstanding! Are we that kind of person?!” The two of them quickly expressed their loyalty.

Zu An couldn’t help but look in the inner hall’s direction. “By the way, do you guys know what happened?”

Jiao Sigun complained, “The two of us were being punished here all this time, so how could we know what happened? But judging from how the crown princess looks, it’s probably something major.”

Piao Duandiao nodded and parroted, “We’ve already worked for the eastern palace for many years. We’ve never seen such a huge gathering before.”

“Then do you recognize the officials who went inside earlier?” Zu An continued to ask them questions. Even though Chuyan had given a rough breakdown of the court’s situation, he only knew their names and ranks. He couldn’t match names with faces.

The two guards explained, “The one who went in first is the Imperial Secretariat’s Right Confidential Assistant, Bi Qi. He’s also the crown princess’ father.”

Zu An recalled the people who had gone in earlier. Bi Qi was probably the middle-aged man who had arrived first. He was quite handsome. After all, how could a father who had sired the crown princess possibly be ugly?

However, despite the man’s expressionless face, Zu An couldn’t help but feel that he was a sinister old fox. It was a strange feeling. It was like watching a show where an actor was clearly playing a hero, yet because of who the actor was, the viewer would still subconsciously perceive them as a villain.

This was the feeling Bi Qi gave him. His appearance was clearly grand, and there weren’t any strange expressions to be seen on his face. He even nodded towards some eunuchs and maids in greeting. Regardless of which angle one looked at him from, he would seem like a radiant and elegant man. However, the first impression Zu An had of this man was that he was a crafty person.

“The second to arrive was Central Secretariat Supervisor Meng Yi. You seem to know the ones who just arrived, so we won’t introduce them,” the two guards explained from the side.

The shock on Zu An’s face grew. These were all the crown prince faction’s core personnel! Just what kind of event was this, for all of them to be gathered together today?

The group inside continued their discussion for most of the day. Only when night fell did they gradually emerge. However, their faces were all full of worry. When they all left, Zu An secretly sought out the crown princess. “Crown princess, what happened?”

“Crown princess?” Bi Linglong frowned. Suddenly, she laughed in distress. “I fear I might not even be able to continue being the crown princess soon.”

Zu An was alarmed. “Why would you say that?” Judging from their recent interactions, he knew that this girl was proud down to her very bones. He had never seen her so dejected before.

Bi Linglong gave the crown prince, who was playing nearby, a look. Her eyes were full of helplessness. “King Qi’s faction went all out today in court. The crown prince may soon cease to be the crown prince. Should that happen, then naturally, I will no longer be the crown princess anymore.”

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