Chapter 70: Doubts
Recognizing Nan Xun’s voice, Jun Huang let out a sigh of relief. There was cold sweat covering her forehead. She couldn’t help but shiver in the cooled water.
She quickly put on some clothes and wrapped them tightly around herself before walking out from behind the screen. Nan Xun stood by the door with candlelight illuminating him from behind. “What are you here for so late at night?” she asked.
Nan Xun sighed inwardly. Of course Jun Huang would ask him this. He did need a justification for a social call at this time of day.
He cleared his throat. “I forgot to ask you how you are going to deal with Wan’er.”
Jun Huang’s shoulders slumped. She really didn’t want to think about this, but she had to. During dinner, Nan Guyue had also been trying to get a feel for Jun Huang’s intention. Jun Huang had deflected the questions. She didn’t expect Nan Xun to vault over the wall and sneak in to get an answer.
Nan Xun’s eyes were drawn to Jun Huang. She hadn’t dried her hair; it was still dripping water. She was showing the gentle side of a woman now. Her make-up free face held an aloof expression.
“I’ve told you that I can’t possibly marry princess Wan’er even if I want to,” Jun Huang said with a frown. She was getting tired of this.
Nan Xun sighed. “That said, I know what kind of a person Wan’er is,” he said seriously. “She doesn’t give up easily. If there’s no reason good enough to convince her, she’ll continue to chase after you for years.”
Jun Huang lowered her eyes and stared at the floor. She didn’t answer immediately. “Then I might as well tell her I’m a woman.”
Nan Xun frowned and loomed over her. “Don’t be absurd. You know Wan’er and Qi Chen are siblings. They have a close relationship. If she knows, it’s only a matter of time before she tells Qi Chen. What are you going to do then? Are you going to tell the world that you are princess Jun Huang of the lost Western Que?”
His tone was harsh, and his eyes were blazing with ire. He held onto Jun Huang’s hand with more force than he had intended. A pair of hands accustomed to wielding weapons knew not how to be tender.
Jun Huang grimaced in pain, her face going pale. Under the warm candlelight she looked as if she would disappear from the world any second. Nan Xun was startled and quickly let go of her.
“There’s no need for you to worry, Nan Xun,” Jun Huang said tiredly and took a seat. “I don’t know what princess Wan’er is thinking, but Qi Chen now knows my problem. I told him and Nan Guyue that I’ve lost my family and have to mourn for them. I won’t get married in three years.”
“I understand,” Nan Xun quietly said. He didn’t notice that Jun Huang wasn’t her usual self. “I’ll try to convince Wan’er.”
Jun Huang stared blankly at the floor. She was suddenly hit by a wave of sorrow. She had thought that she had forgotten about her hatred and despair, but the emotions had only been growing deep inside her heart. They grew and grew until they became a tree tall enough to reach the sky.
She closed her eyes. Tears trickled down her cheeks and dropped onto the floor. The sound might as well be as loud as thunder claps. Nan Xun was a trained fighter. He had better hearing than the average man. He heard the sound and looked over at Jun Huang.
She was sobbing.
All her suppressed pain and grief erupted from her heart and overwhelmed her. She had difficulties breathing under the weight of her emotions. Her tears ran nonstop down her face. Nan Xun had never seen a woman cry. He didn’t know what to do and what to say in comfort.
He had thought that someone like Jun Huang would never cry. Only now did he realize that her aloofness was merely a mask. When everything was said and done, she was a woman who had just lost her family.
“Don’t cry,” Nan Xun said helplessly. “Don’t be sad.” He took Jun Huang’s delicate fingers in his hands and knelt down to look at Jun Huang.
Jun Huang didn’t respond. Her sobs were the only sounds she was making.
The guards outside had heard her. They ran in and knocked on her door. “Are you alright, gentleman Feng?”
That snapped Jun Huang out of her outbreak. She took a deep breath and gave Nan Xun a look. Nan Xun nodded at her before jumping out of the open window, disappearing into the night.
Jun Huang wiped her tears away and smoothed out her clothes before rushing to get the door.
Jun Huang was known for her good look, but some of the guards had never really gotten a proper look at her. They were suddenly shy in face of her, especially since her hair was down and her clothes were dishevelled. She cut a bewitching figure.
“I’m fine,” she croaked. “This gentleman was thinking about the family I’ve lost and couldn’t suppress my sorrow.”
The leader of the guards looked up at her eyes. They were red. He looked over her shoulders and gave the room a good look. Jun Huang didn’t try to block his view.
The man cupped his hands. “We have intruded upon you.”
“It’s quite alright,” Jun Huang said, smiling a smile as beautiful as the moon in the sky.
“It’s late now. The gentleman should get some rest. These subordinates will leave you alone.” He took the team of guards away. Jun Huang was just about to close the door when she spotted Wei Qian.
Wei Qian stood alone in the hallway dressed in white. She looked at Jun Huang, then at the guards. Jun Huang could tell what Wei Qian was thinking. She smiled a little. “Nothing to be concerned about. They were just worried about the security in the manor.” With that, she shut the door behind her.
Jun Huang walked to the window. Nan Xun had long left. There was nothing but crabapple flowers outside. Beautiful, but utterly useless. The moon was distant and aloof. Her long hair flew in the winds. She closed her eyes and let the cold air wash over her.
As soon as Qi Chen woke up, he heard the housekeeper talking to a man outside. He put on a robe and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
The housekeeper bowed at him and ordered a maid to bring him some water. Qi Chen looked at the leader of the guards with a frown. “Why are you making a ruckus so early in the morning? Don’t you know the rules around here?”
The guard dropped down to the floor, his knees knocking against the bluestone floor with a heavy thud. The sound alone was enough to make one wince, but the guard didn’t so much as flinch.
“This subordinate has urgent matters to report. If I have offended Your Royal Highness, I beg for your forgiveness.”
Qi Chen’s eyebrows drew closer. He looked at the door behind him. He was worried that they might wake Nan Guyue up. He told the guard to stand up and follow him. They walked to the pavilion outside the front yard. Qi Chen placed his hands behind his back, waiting for the guard to speak.
The guard walked closer to Qi Chen and said in a low voice, “Last night, this subordinate was walking the parameter as usual. Once I reached the side building where gentleman Feng resided in, I heard a noise coming from the inside. This subordinate knows that gentleman Feng is Your Royal Highness’s confidante. I was worried that something might have happened, so I rushed in. I saw only gentleman Feng with his eyes red like he’d been crying. I asked about it and he said he missed the family he’d lost. This subordinate did hear odd noises coming from inside her room. There was, however, no one except for him when I got there.”
Qi Chen’s eyes went dark and narrow as he contemplated the issue. After a while he ordered the guard to bring Jun Huang here. The guard followed the order and left, leaving Qi Chen in the pavilion.
The first person the guard ran into at the side building wasn’t Jun Huang, but Wei Qian, who had been holding a grudge against him since last night. Before he could say anything, Wei Qian punched him in the eye. He cried out and staggered back.
He cursed. Once he saw who it was that hit him, however, he went silent. Everyone knew that Wei Qian was Qi Chen’s confidante, and she was given to Feng Baiyu weeks ago. Wei Qian was no ordinary woman. No one dared to get on her wrong side.
He pursed his lips. He didn’t know what he had done to deserve this.
Wei Qian stared at him with cold eyes. “You are an embarrassment to the prince. Don’t you know the rules in the manor? You know nothing about respect. You’ve forgotten your place. Maybe it’s time that you leave this manor.”
“This subordinate deserves punishment,” the guard said respectfully. “I have overstepped my boundaries.”
Wei Qian had no intention to let him in. The guard knew that he had made a mistake, so he didn’t say that he was here for Jun Huang. It was Jun Huang’s voice that finally broke the silence between them.
Earlier, Jun Huang had gone to the garden for a walk. When she returned, these two were in a staring contest with one another.
“What is this about?” Jun Huang asked.
Her voice was like a lifeline. The guard whirled around to face her. He was so relieved he could cry.
“The prince was looking for the gentleman,” he quickly said. “He ordered me to bring you to him.”
Jun Huang arched an eyebrow. Worries gnawed at her heart. It’s never a good thing for him to ask for me, she thought. She was dependent on Qi Chen, however. She couldn’t deny him his request. She nodded and threw a glance at Wei Qian. They didn’t exchange a word, but something did pass between them. Jun Huang followed the guard away.
She had made herself presentable before seeing Qi Chen. Her hair was held up with a white jade cap. She wore a violet silk robe with an old foldable fan in her hand. The calligraphy on the fan was cleary done by a master.
Jun Huang walked up to Qi Chen. Her robe brushed against the threshold, bringing dust up into the air. The sun shone on the serene garden. There were birds chirping in the trees. Some songstress in the manor had started practicing a new song.
Hearing her footsteps, Qi Chen turned around to face her. He smiled and beckoned her.
Jun Huang was worried, but it didn’t show on her face. She approached Qi Chen and greeted him. “What in the garden caught Your Royal Highness’s fancy today? It’s unusual for Your Royal Highness to wander the garden so early in the morning.”
Qi Chen waved a hand in the air. “It’s nothing. Someone was making a ruckus outside my door. I woke up to listen to a report. And now I can’t sleep.” He looked up at Jun Huang with sharp eyes. It was as if he wanted to see through her.
Jun Huang met his eyes with a faint smile on her face. She then looked around the garden. “Who is it that has interrupted your rest? Your Royal Highness should perhaps start cleaning house and kick those undisciplined servants out. They are more trouble than they are worth.”
“Brother Feng is right. I will give out the order tomorrow.” It was clear that Qi Chen was humoring her while he kept a close eye on her. Jun Huang remained calm, paying no attention to his scrutiny.