Bai Ruohan returned to their temporary residence and the first place he went to was Jin Rongqiu’s private quarter. He lightly knocked on the door twice before he heard a rustling noise from inside the room.
“Who is it?” Jin Rongqiu’s voice sounded from behind the door.
After his reply, there was a moment of silence but with his sharp hearing, Bai Ruohan could hear small movement from behind the door. After a while, he heard Jin Rongqiu’s voice again.
“You can come in.”
Bai Ruohan slowly entered the room and shut the door behind him. He stared at Jin Rongqiu, who is now currently sitting by the wooden chair by the table with a cup of water on his hand.
“Rongqiu… what you said earlier about the throne-”
“It’s true. I want to fight for the throne, for her,” Jin Rongqiu replied without letting Bai Ruohan finish.
“The fight will be messy. If we’re not careful, the princess might get pulled in into the chaos,” Bai Ruohan said. “I have already spoken to the crown prince, Song Liren… he is willing to cast his lot with you.”
‘Though there’s a bit of misunderstanding, it isn’t that serious,’ Bai Ruohan added in his mind.
“Did you tell him about my intention for his sister?” Jin Rongqiu asked. Though his face appeared serious, if one were to see closely, they’ll notice how his ears had turned red. Bai Ruohan, naturally noticed this but decided not to say anything about it.
“I didn’t tell him. Even just telling him that you wanted to fight for the throne already made him appear restless, I’m afraid that if I tell him that you wanted to make his sister your future Empress, he’d faint on the spot,” Bai Ruohan replied.
Jin Rongqiu sipped on his water before placing the cup onto the table. “It doesn’t matter. Tomorrow, the princess will follow us home. Once we’re back at Ruanyu, she’ll be under my direct protection,” Jin Rongqiu said before standing up. “You are still wide awake, are you not? Come and accompany me for a walk.”
“Are you sure it’s a walk you want and not to sneak into the palace to see your sweethea-”
“Scram!” Jin Rongqiu roared as he picked the cup from the table and threw it towards Bai Ruohan.
As he had already expected this reaction, Bai Ruohan easily sidestepped, letting the cup travelled past his head and hitting the door behind him. The cup hit the wooden frame of the door, shattering to pieces before they fell to the ground.
“Calm down, calm down. I was wrong, Rongqiu, ah!” Bai Ruohan quickly said. “Alright, alright. I won’t tease you anymore. Come, let us two brother go for a walk,” Bai Ruohan added.
Jin Rongqiu didn’t reply and only walked towards Bai Ruohan. Once he is close enough, he hissed out under his breath: “Tomorrow, you are not allowed to ride on the horses to the next town. Or else, I will go and complain to Uncle Wuchen.”
Hearing the threat, Bai Ruohan turned even more panicked. He stared at Jin Rongqiu with disbelief, but seeing his friend’s serious expression, he knew that Jin Rongqiu had meant every word in his threat. “I’ll walk! I’ll even walk the whole way to Ruanyu! Just don’t tell Uncle Wuchen!”
“Remember your words,” Jin Rongqiu huffed before he continued to walk towards the door. Minding the shards of the broken cup from before, he opened the door and exits the room.
Bai Ruohan followed close behind him. Now that they are outside though, he sported a serious expression himself. But he kept on whispering to Jin Rongqiu all the time.
“Rongqiu, you won’t tell uncle?”
“Rongqiu, answer me, ah!”
The more Bai Ruohan chattered, Jin Rongqiu could feel headache forming. It got worse when they left the temporary courtyard prepared for them by Dong Xing kingdom. Bai Ruohan no longer whispered and simply spoke out loud, even begging and resorting to compliments just like before.
Leaving the palace wall, they could see the night market that decorated the main streets leading to the palace. Bai Ruohan finally stopped begging Jin Rongqiu and turned his attention to the night market.
“Despite their current situation, they are still lively. It’s as if they didn’t have anything to worry about,” Bai Ruohan murmured softly, secretly admiring the scene of the night market.
“It’s not that they have nothing to worry about. It’s just that they feel safe now that we have arrived here,” Jin Rongqiu told Bai Ruohan. “For one month, they were anxious whether or not the treaty between Ruanyu and Dong Xing will come to fruition. It is only after seeing our envoy did they relax.”
“Oh? And how do you know this?” Bai Ruohan asked in a curious manner.
“If you did your job properly rather than visiting the pleasure house, you’d know about this too!” Jin Rongqiu hissed at the other.
“Hey! You should know. There are three best places to gather information and the pleasure house is the best out of the three!” Bai Ruohan tried to defend himself.
“And what the other two are?”
“The tavern and the streets, of course!” Bai Ruohan replied, his tone full of confidence. “But these two are not comparable to the information you can get in the pleasure house.”
“Yet, I still know more than you. Then that means you did not do your job well. Do you have anything to say in your defence?” Jin Rongqiu asked.
Bai Ruohan finally realized his blunder and knew that he is in trouble. He was just about to think of an answer when he saw a figure through the corner of his eyes. Based on the other’s build, Bai Ruohan could feel a sense of familiarity.
“Rongqiu, ah… that person seems very familiar?” Bai Ruohan pointed at a direction behind Jin Rongqiu.
At first, Jin Rongqiu thought that Bai Ruohan was lying in order to escape but he saw that there were no ripples within Bai Ruohan’s eyes to indicate that he’s lying. Turning around, he finally saw the figure that Bai Ruohan is pointing at.
The figure is wearing simple styled clothing and a familiar straw hat on top of their head. Jin Rongqiu narrowed his eyes, wondering what the princess is doing outside at night. “Let’s go.”
Jin Rongqiu walked over, slowly approaching the familiar figure. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure is not alone and that there is another person beside them. A man, almost the same age if their appearance is to go by. He could also hear their conversation, which seems to be hurried.
“Yuan-ge, we don’t even know where she is. Finding her in this huge city without any leads is like trying to find a needle in the sea!”
“Little Liu, be quiet and just follow me! Or what? Do you want me to go to Ruanyu like this?! Did you know, eldest brother said that if she’s not found, I will have to go no matter what!”
“No but! She can’t have gotten far yet. Maybe she’s at uncle’s place. Let’s go.”
Just by the little conversation that they overheard, Bai Ruohan felt that something is wrong. He glanced over at Jin Rongqiu and saw that his close friend have a deep frown on his face. “Rongqiu, maybe they are just looking for a pet. Yeah, that must be it…” he tried to explain, hoping that his friend won’t misunderstand.
“Let’s follow them,” Jin Rongqiu said, ignoring what Bai Ruohan had just told him.
“Didn’t you see that person beside her? Going out alone with a man, what if things goes wrong?!” Jin Rongqiu grumbled as jealousy bubbled inside his chest.
“Maybe that’s just a servant. As a servant of the palace, nothing could go wrong. After all… male servants are required to undergo purification before they can serve inside the inner court,” Bai Ruohan replied.
But even after he said that Jin Rongqiu’s expression did not ease up. In the end, Bai Ruohan only let out a heavy sigh as he quietly followed his friend in tailing the two figure from before.
‘This Rongqiu… he never once show any envy to any of his brothers despite being treated coldly by the late Emperor but now, he’s showing a face as if he had drunk a jar full of vinegar!’
Written by: Lin Xiaolong
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