General Feng wanted to bicker about why Her Highness no longer put on her masking cloth as he had previously asked. However, he didn't want to push it as she was already furious about another matter.
You could see it in her gait as she paced up and down the room. It was a small room with only a bed. There the physician inspected her head wound, applied some herbs and tied her forehead around with a mesh cotton bandage.
"I have lost my mind haven't I, Feng?" She scoffed more to herself than him.
"This servant does not have that thought. How dare he?" Which was true. She had thus far worked well in getting his emperor's attention but if not careful, he could demote her to just a secret woman. As she was making progress with the emperor, maybe she could ask him to give her a cherishable title. Of course this needed to be done at the right moment as she suspected the harem would be jealous of her.
"What happened there? What have you done to that―" A slight noise precluded her from finishing her sentence. Her eyebrows lifted in surprise, baffled that someone was trying to eavesdrop on them.
She abruptly changed her tone and line of conversation. "Thank you for escorting this lowly maid. General Feng shouldn't have." Her Highness rolled her eyes, irritated that they could not talk business because of the trespasser.
"Don't thank me. I only wish to honor my master," he rightly said back. With that the tree cracked from outside, as if it rose up from the weight lifting off its branches. What a sell out, it was because no one liked trees as much as Luo Meng.
"I think he is gone," he breathed out.
Turning her back to him, she stripped the bed of its sheets. "Whatever is going on with that fake prince have it quickly resolved." Her tone was sharper than a sword.
"This servant doesn't understand what Her Highness is speaking of."
She stopped and caressed the sheet slowly with the back of her hand. "So you mean to lie to me by implying that you do not know Kuan Hui is a woman?"
His made a throaty sound, not wanting to face the truth he wanted to ignore.
"Answer me!" She dared him to come clean with her.
"I have known it all along." From the first time he met her, to sneakily catching her dressing up with women wear. He didn't remember exactly when, but he always knew.
"Then stay away from her before one of us gets hurt." She felt the bandage wrapped around her head, as if to check that it was still tight enough. "Besides, can't you see that you are hurting her?"
He was surprised to see her take the stance that backed Kuan Hui. "How so? Am I doing anything that speaks of being smitten?" General Feng was not sure why he was suddenly defensive.
"Yes, the way you stare at her. The way you shrink into a puppy when she is around." Princess Le-anne shook her head. "You are in love with her."
"No, I'm not. I'm sorry your Highness but those words are out of line."
"Then leave her alone. Ask the emperor to assign you to something different in order to spare her the pain of unrequited love."
He sighed, "I have tried that but she wouldn't have it. And I …" How could he word his feelings properly to Her Highness. The truth was he liked that Kuan Hui made him stay.
"What?" Princess Le-anne rolled her eyes in annoyance, realising that he was not going to budge. "We have important matters to discuss so I will let this pass by, but have it fixed."
He nodded attentively.
"I received a letter stating that there is an oncoming mission."
"Yes," he confirmed. "Nevoria recently captured our people in order to have them as slaves, therefore we have a mission to set our people free."
She scowled, her disgust evident. Nevoria was quite harsh with human life, compared to any other country.
He understood why she would see this as inhuman. He went on, "We would appreciate it if you partake in this mission. Our people are kept in cages as if they are animals."
She gracefully sat on the bed with the folded sheet on her lap. He didn't understand why she needed the sheet.
"I do not understand why I need to be a part of it."
"Honestly it is because no one would dare to attack the emperor. The dragon is vicious, especially with his sword. He will take us all if we make one single mistake and which is why we must take precautions."
"And is that why you need me?"
"Her Highness has an advantage of alertness; we could use that." He rubbed his stubble. "And even if the emperor counters, you shall be the priority."
"But why not attack now when he is absent from the palace?"
"Because the cages are surrounded by at least five hundred military service men. We will not be able to go through the security."
She looked at the wall in deep thought as he spoke. Probably a dozen theories were bouncing around in her head. She was a born strategist; well that's what he heard from Mistress Lei.
He continued to explain, "As a matter of fact, security slackens when he is there; around one hundred men will be on guard."
"Hmm… Seems like their dragon is their god"
"That is just the tip of the iceberg. On the night you return, may her Highness meet us behind the Hall of Festivals for a more detailed arrangement? "
"Considering Grand Consort's beauty sleep routines, I will be able to leave her for a couple minutes without suspicion…"
She rose up and took an intentional step towards him. He could read that she was battling about how she could ask or say whatever she was to speak next.
A ticking second passed before she asked, "Why do you drink General Feng?"
He coughed in embarrassment. The last time they met, General Feng was tipsy. He remembered facets of it and it was an ugly scenario that he regretted.
"For the emperor and Kuan Hui." He answered honestly. Most labelled him as a drunkard, which helped to keep away the prying eyes of the dragon. No one suspected that the silly drunkard was conniving and planning deceit behind the nation. It did not help completely but it was worth doing; though he could read the 'mistrust' Her Highness bore.
He didn't blame her. He didn't trust himself either. "I also have a question if Her Highness will let me."
"Why did Her Highness willingly get arrested when she had a high chance of not being discovered. You could have gone to your mistress for protection so as not to place yourself in a compromising life situation. Not that I am accusing Her Highness, but the fact that I protected you is rousing rumors that were not needed."
She smiled, "I'm aware of that; still, I think the gain overrides the cost."
"Well firstly, I widened the wedge between Grand Consort Shu and Consort Wang. The bigger the division, the more Grand Consort Shu will find herself feeling insecure."
"Your Highness… I still don't understand."
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"An heir, General Feng." She sighed, probably worn out by her head injury. "Wouldn't an insecure person need protection? More power to at least feel secure?"
"Think of it this way. What better person to make you feel secure than your beloved maid on the phoenix seat?"
He was beginning to understand. It seemed like Her Majesty sought to use Grand Consort Shu as a pawn. "And that's where Her Majesty comes in?"
"Believe it or not, I must get as much help as I can get. We cannot leave any room for failure." She smirked proudly. "Grand Consort Shu lets me sleep in her bed now."
"Is that so?" Shock cast in General Feng's eyes. He was impressed.
Her Highness was clever at the game of deceit and the past years had not been wasted while training her, because they were well off to sitting her on the throne.
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