The Queen’s Secret
“There are too many details for me to tell you now, so I’ll summarise it.” Ah Neath took a quick look outside to estimate how much time she had.
“For some reason, Father suddenly died after you left. Princess Consort, well, she wasn’t my Princess Consort yet then. She, a direct member of Great Spirit Shaman’s group, was sent to me from Mount Wanyu. Thanks to the esteem she and Baimu were held in, the state wasn’t plunged into chaos.
“Because the state values men over women, she suggested I ascend the throne as a boy. Not many people in the court recognised me, so we only needed to convince those who did to keep my secret.
“She helped me consolidate my rule and eliminated anyone who was a threat to my rule, so I was grateful to her and did as she said. I took her as my Princess Consort so that she could legitimately handle political affairs for me.”
“That explains why you took a Princess Consort as a woman. She knows everything in that case.”
“Of course she does.” Ah Neath drew blood from her lip with her teeth. “After I was enthroned, I wanted to complete the Ahhuda Ceremony so that I could obtain authority over the military. You know I require the approval of a Great Spirit Shaman if I want to complete it before the age of twenty. Baimu kept putting obstacles in my way, while that wench claimed to have lost contact with Mount Wanyu. I believed her, so I only threw a tantrum. Looking back, I should be grateful for having a short fuse and speaking without consulting my brain first. They would’ve killed me already if I was shrewd, and they were probably planning to the entire time.
“At a banquet, I had a few too many drinks with the wench. I’m not good at holding my liquor, but it was an important banquet, so I took a pill to alleviate the effects of alcohol. Therefore, I was still aware of my surroundings when I was sleeping.
“I was asleep when Baimu barged into my room and climbed straight into my bed. I was almost as alert as if I didn’t have a drop of alcohol when he tried to unbutton my collar. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was trying to violate me because he knows my secret and treats himself as my superior. I was going to reproach him when the wench came in to stop him.
“I was ready to fight Baimu to the death if he dared to harm her, so I continued feigning, waiting for an opportunity to catch him off guard. Never did I expect to hear her say, ‘What are you doing? She’s still useful. His Eminence made it clear that nobody was to touch her. You have a death wish?’
“I heard everything they said, though I didn’t understand what it was all about.
“Baimu replied, ‘She’s growing prettier by the day. Her bust and peach are also growing well… Not even her chest cloth can hold them knockers in anymore. She’ll have to go sooner or later, so why not let me have a taste first?’”
“In the coldest voice I ever heard from her, the wench threatened, ‘You think you’re the only one who thinks she’s pretty?’
“I remember even Baimu was shocked. He asked, ‘You mean, His Eminence also…’
“The wench replied, ‘Apart from that, she’s also Baimu’s current King. While you have authority over the military, it doesn’t mean everyone is subservient to you. If nothing else, not one of the generals Martial Paragon mentored are willing to befriend you. The runt’s authority is growing, and she’s gaining followers. If we can’t provide acceptable justification, harming her will only harm us. Why did we jump through all the hoops to kill her father seven years ago? What have these seven years we invested into consolidating her rule been for? How can you overthrow a nation without patience? Get out.’
“Based on the conversation, I deciphered that even Baimu had to take orders from her.
“I considered her my sister ever since my father passed away, yet… Hahaha, how ironic.”
Ah Neath was someone who was to the point, had a fiery temper and mediocre memory, yet she recounted the memories fluently. How many times did she have to relive those nightmares to perform that perfect recital?
“Did you think I would cry? Crying doesn’t solve the problem. I was done crying ages ago.” There wasn’t a single tear on Ah Neath’s face.
“You have always been steadfast, Your Majesty.”
“Ever since that night, my temperament became unpredictable. I was afraid to push them away, but I didn’t want to get close to them. The only solution was to show a lack of empathy, be unreasonable and as temperamental as possible. Being called insane is much better than pretending to be friendly with them. And, hey, occasionally having a spell would let me curse and hit that wench without repercussion.
“I have to give them credit for bearing with me and patiently waiting. I have a strong suspicion they’ve been waiting for this opportunity to mobilise troops that Heisina Tribe’s actions have granted them. If I’m not wrong, they plan to coax me into joining the frontlines, letting someone else do their bidding. That’s why… I summoned you back.
“Because I wasn’t sure if you’d assist me or not, I tested you… Feng Xue, no matter how you twist the story, it’s not your fault the state faced turmoil after you departure. Father’s death was not your fault; someone else is culpable for his death. I appreciate you answering my call for help when you have retired. I did not mean to make you sleep in the stable or splash you with hot soup.”
Feng Xue smiled – glad and assured. “Although this old one is late, he is not too late.” Feng Xue gently caressed Ah Neath’s head, reminding her of her late father’s gentle touch. “This old one’s return must have caused you problems.”
“Indeed. Firstly, you’re a menace to them. Secondly, I used your return as a medium to expand my available actions, starting with sending Baimu away. I know the wench is anxious now because of my movements. Thus…”
“Indeed, you have been beside yourself recently. Was it to avoid suspicion?”
“I must be on guard. If she wants to kill me, she’ll commit to it today or within the next few days. I’ve deliberately withheld from consuming anything they provide, but today… I never predicted she’d personally bring food to me. She had someone stay at the door, so I couldn’t make any moves. In the end, I had to finish her soup. My concern is that she will use more direct means now, such as assassination.”
“She did assign sixteen skilled assassins around your residential palace.”
“H-how do you know?”
“This old one has nothing but time on his hands; he takes strolls around the palace to kill time. When he came across suspicious people, he took it upon himself to capture them. They have not sent any more assassins after this old one scared them.”
“Sh-she already made an attempt on my life but failed? F-Feng Xue, you must help me, or I’m doomed.”
Feng Xue contemplated to himself, then shook his head: “Your Majesty, this old one is too old and only has one arm. He may not be any help.”
“Y-you were Morcher’s Sacred Beast. Morcher’s King is my uncle. He’s my last relative. You must help me!”
“Fret not, Your Majesty. As long as this old one is still breathing, he will not let anyone harm you.”
Ah Neath exhaled only to tense up again: “But didn’t you s-”
“This old one did not lie: he is old and too weak to salvage the situation. Howbeit, you still have a chance. One source of hope has just presented itself to you.”
“What hope? Tell me.”
“…Braised pork shoulders in soy sauce…? Am I a joke to you?!”