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    Chapter 99: The Unknown Concubine Qin

    On this bright and clear day, with a gentle breeze blowing, a few swallows leisurely flew out from under the eaves of an imperial palace, passing by Chungmu Palace. Suddenly, they were startled by a loud wail from within.

    Prince Wu was sitting on the edge of the flower bed like a stubborn child, howling towards the sky with tears streaming down his face.

    Chang Nian trembled in fear at the sight, yet there was nothing she could do but watch. After a while, she fetched a flower pot and held it beneath his tears, as if to collect them.

    "Uncle Emperor," she couldn't help but sigh, "you really know how to cry."

    What happened to the stern and cold demeanor? Was the uncle emperor she saw at the annual banquet just an impostor?

    Prince Wu glared at her and quickly defended himself, "Do you think I want to cry? It's all pent up from so many years!"

    With that, he continued to bawl towards the heavens.

    Chang Nian could only laugh through her tears. It made sense, though. Despite living a life of luxury in the palace where no one dared to disrespect him, Prince Wu was undoubtedly lonely. At his age, he still had to confine himself within these four walls.

    "Your Highness, please change your clothes first," urged a palace attendant, unable to bear the sight. "The Seventh Prince is, after all, your junior. How can you be so disrespectful?"

    "I don't care!" Prince Wu kicked his legs in defiance.

    Unable to contain herself, Chang Nian chuckled.

    "What are you laughing at?" Prince Wu grumbled. "To dare treat this Prince as a servant and barge into Chungmu Palace, if I were to report this to His Majesty, you'd be in deep trouble!"

    Clearing her throat, Chang Nian bowed apologetically. "Uncle, forgive me. As it is, I am useless. If I were to be reported again, I might be confined once more."

    "That would be for the best," Prince Wu huffed. "Someone has to share my miserable fate."

    Despite his rugged appearance and muscular build, he was behaving like a child. Chang Nian found it amusing and couldn't help but coax him in a tone one would use with a toddler. "If Nephew returns, who will take Uncle out to explore?"

    Upon hearing this, Prince Wu's sobs ceased instantly. His eyes lit up like lanterns as he tugged on her sleeve, pulling her aside. He asked furtively, "You can take this Prince out?"

    "It should be possible."

    "Don't make empty promises," Prince Wu warned sternly. "I've tried myself and failed to pass through the Chongyang Gate! Even if I did, the outer palace gates won't open without an imperial edict from the Emperor or an order from the Empress Dowager."

    With a warm smile, Chang Nian said, "If Uncle Emperor trusts me, wait for me tomorrow at the entrance of Chungmu Palace. Your nephew will come to fetch you and show you how the capital has changed."

    Prince Wu's face lit up with joy, but then it was quickly replaced by concern. He looked at Chang Nian with a complicated expression and asked, "Why do you want to take this king out of the palace? What is your intention?"

    "Uncle Emperor is wise, so there's no need for your nephew to hide anything," Chang Nian replied, his smile fading. "Father Emperor's health is declining, and he has entrusted the three garrisons to the Crown Prince. Now that the Crown Prince is in a disadvantageous position, I fear he might resort to desperate measures... Of course, if my concerns are unfounded, that would be for the best. But it's always better to be prepared for such situations, hence why your nephew wishes to ask for Uncle Emperor's assistance."

    Relieved, Prince Wu said, "I thought it was something more serious. It's just a small matter, then."

    "To your nephew, it's not a trivial matter," Chang Nian replied, pressing his lips together. "My mother passed away long ago, leaving only my father. I can't stand idly by and watch him be in danger."

    "Your mother..." Prince Wu narrowed his eyes, seemingly lost in thought but unable to recall the memory.

    Chang Nian softly reminded him, "Concubine Qin."

    "Oh, that lady," Prince Wu exclaimed, muttering to himself. His gaze wandered as he continued, "Concubine Qin..."

    Seeing this reaction, Chang Nian became curious. "Uncle Emperor, did you know my mother?"

    "Certainly," Prince Wu replied. "When your mother entered the palace, her beauty caught the attention of many princes, including your father. He favored her greatly, but unfortunately, she was never granted an official title. Instead, she was demoted to a palace maid. By the time I heard her name again, she was already pregnant and had been elevated to the rank of concubine by the Emperor. There are many speculations about what transpired, but besides the Empress, your father spoke of Concubine Qin the most."

    Chang Nian was taken aback, hardly believing it. "Father... often mentioned Concubine Qin?"

    Concubine Qin had clearly been neglected, living a difficult life with little to no contact with Father.

    "If not for the Empress... Ah, it's ancient history, child. What business is it of yours?" Prince Wu cut himself off, shooting her a stern look. "But... since you're Concubine Qin's child, I'll trust you. Tomorrow, come and escort me out of the palace for a visit."

    Chang Nian was surprised, frowning as she tried to ask more, but Prince Wu was unwilling to elaborate further. He turned away, waving her off. "Go on, go on. If you don't leave now, I'll really report to His Majesty."

    "..."

    The side door of the palace closed slowly as Chang Nian and Huang Ningzhong exited together. After settling the arrangements for the next day, Chang Nian couldn't help but inquire, "Ningzhong, do you know anything about Concubine Qin?"

    Huang Ningzhong smiled. "Your Highness, I had not yet entered the palace when Concubine Qin passed away due to illness."

    I see... Chang Nian nodded, her expression a mix of emotions.

    "I used to think I knew my mother well. She was a greedy person, longing for status and wealth, but failing to attain them made her melancholic. She didn't pay much attention to me either."

    Treading on the brick pavement, Chang Nian frowned. "But then I realized that I never truly understood her thoughts."

    How could Beitang Hua weep so bitterly at her grave, and how did Imperial Uncle trust him because of her? What kind of person was Concubine Qin, and what was her past with those people?

    "Your Highness need not worry too much," Huang Ningzhong said. "Regardless, the Empress Dowager cherished you deeply."

    Did she cherish me? Chang Nian smiled bitterly. "I never felt it."

    "Sigh," she said, shaking her head. "We agreed earlier that nothing must go wrong tomorrow. You'd better keep your promise."

    "Yes, Your Highness." Huang Ningzhong acknowledged and accompanied her out of the Chongyang Gate.

    With one major issue resolved, Chang Nian's mood was still quite good. Skipping out of the palace, she lifted the carriage curtain.

    And there she saw Ye Jiangbai sitting in her carriage.

    Her heart sank, and she frowned. She wanted to slam down the curtain but couldn't help stealing another glance.

    It would have been better if she hadn't looked. She noticed an unnatural flush on his cheeks.

    " Duke Guo?" she called out.

    Ye Jiangbai didn't respond; he propped his forehead with his hand and leaned against the cushion, seemingly already asleep.

    Liang Ce emerged from the other side of the carriage, sighing as he said, "Your Highness, Duke Guo is unwell and hasn't had a good rest for several days. Now that he's sleeping soundly in your carriage, perhaps..."

    "He likes my carriage, doesn't he?" Chang Nian nodded. "Then let Duke Guo ride this carriage back to his residence. I'll switch to his."

    "Your Highness."

    Chang Nian gritted her teeth, pouting with indignation. "He expects me to send him back? Think again!"

    Perhaps her voice was a bit too loud, rousing the half-asleep occupant within the carriage. A pair of fox-like eyes glanced at her, and the figure stirred. "Has His Highness emerged?"

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