Chapter 149: Disobedience
As if he had read the emperor's mind, Sir Shangguan listed a few more arguments in favor for of a marriage between his daughter and Nan Xun. The emperor was starting to think that it might be a good idea.
Wan'er had gotten close to Shangguan Yue. She only stayed silent because of the emperor's dark expression. She relaxed when she saw the gloom lifting from the emperor's face.
"I will consider your proposal," said the emperor as he rubbed at his forehead. "I'm tired. You're dismissed."
Sir Shangguan had been in the court for a long time. He knew how to read people. He gave Wan'er a look before leaving the room."
The emperor sighed and gestured for Wan'er to take a seat. After a pause, he asked, "Do you think I should agree to this marriage?"
It didn't take long for Wan'er to come to a conclusion. Shangguan Yue was her friend. What was more, she was unhappy with the scandal about Nan Xun and Jun Huang. She couldn't allow the man she loved to be insulted in this way. Nan Xun's marriage would be proof that the scandal was nothing but rumors.
"Wan'er believes that it's about time brother Nan gets married. He's been staying away from the imperial city, and he only returned because there hasn't been a war for him to fight in. It will do him good to marry a good woman. Besides, sister Shangguan Yue truly loves brother Nan. They will make a good couple."
The emperor was silent for a moment. He thought back to the arguments Sir Shangguan had given him. They did make sense to him.
Nan Xun was an adult now. If the emperor didn't worry about his marriage, people would mock him for dreading Nan Xun to the point that he didn't allow Nan Xun to have a child.
The emperor sighed and stood up with Wan'er's help. He went to his study and ordered a eunuch to fetch him a piece of cloth for royal decree. He took a moment to think before he started writing. After reading the decree through one more time, he handed it to a eunuch and sent him to Prince Nan Manor.
When the eunuch arrived, Jun Huang and Nan Xun were talking about Wan'er's wedding. The pageboy in charge of watching the door led the eunuch in. Nan Xun got to his feet with his brows furrowed and waited for the announcement with Jun Huang.
"With the heaven as the witness, His Majesty the emperor decreed that a marriage should tie Shangguan Yue, daughter of Sir Shangguan, to Prince Nan Xun," the eunuch declared in a high-pitched voice. "Shangguan Yue is a kindhearted mature woman with both beauty and talents, while Prince Nan Xun is at an age for marriage. Shangguan Yue has been waiting for a new surname. She and the prince are meant to be together. His Majesty has granted both their wishes and announced that Shangguan Yue is to become Prince Nan Xun's wife. The Ministry of Rites will be in charge of the wedding procedure and will pick a good time to hold the wedding."
Jun Huang stilled. It wasn't that she had never expected the emperor to arrange a marriage for Nan Xun, but… she hadn't thought it would be this soon. She was at a loss of how to react.
Nan Xun was several years into his twenties. The emperor had never brought up the topic of marriage to him before. It caught him completely off guard that the emperor would give him the order without any warnings.
Nan Xun shot up to his feet, startling the eunuch. The eunuch thought that Nan Xun was simply too excited. He walked up to Nan Xun with a wide smile. "This old servant is here to congratulate Your Highness for getting – "
Before the eunuch could finish, Nan Xun stormed out of his manor. The eunuch smiled awkwardly.
Jun Huang stood up without showing a trace of emotions. She patted the dust from her clothes and watched Nan Xun go.
"Perhaps the prince has been so joyous that he forgot to accept the decree. May the gentleman take it for him?" The eunuch gaped a little when he turned to Jun Huang. It wasn't the first time he visited Nan Xun, but it was the first time he saw Jun Huang here. He snuck a couple more glances at the graceful man.
Jun Huang put on a smile and took the decree with steady hands. After the eunuch took his leave, she opened the scroll and read the writing on it, her eyes growing colder and colder. On her face was an impassive expression, but in her heart there was a thunderstorm. How she would love to tear this thing to pieces!
That, however, would be irresponsible. She tossed the scroll toward the stone table and sat down to drink her tea, lowering her eyes to hide her feelings.
Nan Xun went straight to the palace and rushed to the emperor's room. A eunuch hurriedly came up to him. He had thought that Nan Xun was here to thank the emperor, but Nan Xun's dark expression told him otherwise.
"What can this servant help you with, Your Highness?" the eunuch asked with a bright smile.
Nan Xun was here to convince the emperor, not to point fingers. He calmed himself down and cupped his hands at the eunuch. "I have matters to discuss with the emperor. Is he free to take guests?"
The eunuch looked at the palace, then at Nan Xun. He nodded and said, "Your Highness should take care not to anger the emperor. Communication is vital in solving this problem. Angering the emperor will be counterproductive."
"Thank you for the advice, gonggong," said Nan Xun. He waited for the eunuch to announce his arrival with his hands behind his back. A breeze swept his robe up in the air and cleared the fog shrouding his mind. It looked as if he hadn't been the one barging into the palace out of panic.
Not long after, the eunuch came out of the room. He motioned at Nan Xun to enter. Nan Xun nodded at him before walking in.
He walked through doors after doors before he finally reached the room the emperor read reports in. The emperor looked up at him and told Nan Xun to come in without a formal greeting.
Nan Xun ignored the emperor's words and dropped down to the floor, looking into the emperor's eyes. "Please consider taking the order back, Your Majesty."
The emperor's expression darkened. He stared at Nan Xun, trying to see behind his words. Nan Xun didn't avert his eyes. He looked back fearlessly.
The emperor would not allow anyone to go against his will. He slammed his fist into the desk and pointed at Nan Xun. "Are you going to disobey me?"
Nan Xun had a pair of eyes as sharp as the ones of an eagle. He leveled the emperor with a terrifyingly cold gaze and said, "If Your Majesty is unwilling to take back the order, this official can only oppose your will."
Nan Xun could not forget the way Jun Huang's face hardened when she heard the order. He couldn't stop himself from confronting the emperor directly. He had never imagined that one day he would do such a reckless thing for someone.
"Have you forgotten your place?!" The emperor hit the desk again, his eyes filled with fury. For a moment, it seemed as if he was going to draw his sword.
Nan Xun took a deep breath and tried his best to soften his tone. "This official knows that Your Majesty is the son of heaven, while this official is a mere general with a title that means nothing. Your Majesty has been treating this official with kindness; this official is grateful. But forgive this official for not being to accept a marriage with Shangguan Yue."
The emperor frowned and stared at Nan Xun. "Are you not going to listen to my order from now on? How do I know you aren't going to stage a coup next time?"
"This official will never," Nan Xun said, his pupils contracting. He lowered his head without another word.
The emperor huffed. "I have given you the order. What's decided is decided. Go back and wait for the wedding day."
"This official – "
"Get out!" The emperor exclaimed. He didn't want to hear Nan Xun say another word.
No matter how much Nan Xun would like the emperor to take back the order, he knew the emperor had made up his mind and wouldn't listen to him. Nan Xun walked outside and knelt down before the emperor's palace. The thought of giving up had never occurred to him.
The eunuch sighed and entered the room. The emperor was still reeling from what had happened. He wasn't in the mood for reports anymore.
"Please don't let anger consume you, Your Majesty," said the eunuch. "Prince Nan is used to living on his own. It may take time for him to adjust. He'll come around."
The emperor scoffed. "Don't try to speak for him. I know how he is. I have given the order. I can't possibly take it back, can I? Should I embarrass myself for a general? Besides, he's in no place to judge Shangguan Yue."
The eunuch fell silent. He had wanted to say a few words for Nan Xun, but the emperor was furious. His attempt might only make the emperor even more wary of Nan Xun.
The eunuch stayed silent. The emperor continued to go through the reports with a calm expression as if nothing had happened at all.
It started raining not long after. The eunuch looked outside the door and saw Nan Xun kneeling with his back straight. He didn't look like a man begging for forgiveness.
The eunuch had been pacing around with a concerned expression. It didn't take long for the emperor to figure out that Nan Xun was still outside.
"He's still there?"
The eunuch went up to the emperor and nodded. "Yes. Prince Nan Xun has been kneeling outside ever since this morning. It's getting late now, and the rain is getting heavier. He may get sick…"
The emperor put down the report he was holding and got to his feet. Without missing a beat, the eunuch draped a robe around the emperor's shoulders and fixed the wrinkled royal robe for the emperor. They walked out of the palace.
At the edge of the rooftop, the emperor looked at Nan Xun, then at the pouring rain. He still cared about Nan Xun's health. "Do you admit your mistake, Nan Xun?"
Nan Xun looked up at the emperor with pursed lips. He didn't immediately respond. "This official doesn't know what mistake I've made. I hope only for Your Majesty to take back the order."