Chapter 51: The Grand Wedding
"Has he said when?"
"Tomorrow noon at the tea house."
Rou'er silently left the room and disappeared. Jun Huang sat on the bed, her head filled with thoughts.
She couldn't sleep, so she brought a teapot and cup to the backyard. Above her was a stream of bright stars. The wind made her shudder. Jun Huang didn't have a robe with her, and she was dressed in only a thin layer of clothes.
Under the moonlight, she poured herself a cup of tea and started drinking. Her face was obscured in the dark.
She drank the tea like she would wine. She wasn't drunk, but her mind was falling into slumber. Supporting her head with a hand, she shifted her gaze to the tea inside her cup. But her heart was somewhere else, somewhere far, far away.
Late at night, Wei Qian woke up and saw Jun Huang drinking tea alone in the backyard. She was just about to tell Jun Huang to go get some rest when she saw the expression on Jun Huang's moonlit face. She looked so sorrowful that Wei Qian didn't dare approach her. So she watched from afar.
Jun Huang drank until the sun had risen. She finished the pot of tea. When she turned around she saw Wei Qian looking at her. Hurriedly, Wei Qian looked away. Jun Huang shrugged and went into her bedroom to change.
Afterwards, she left the manor for the tea house. When she arrived, Qi Yun had already been waiting for quite a while. Jun Huang was a little surprised. Qi Yun had never been so eager to meet her before.
Qi Yun came up to her with a frown and went straight to the point. "You said you wanted to help me, Jun Huang, but why did you let second brother marry Nan Guyue? You must know that after they get married, Qi Chen will gain considerable support."
Jun Huang could see how anxious he was. She sighed. "Of course you'd ask me about that. I thought you'd understand me."
"I don't understand, Jun Huang. You don't make it easy to do so."
Jun Huang let out a quiet laugh. Qi Yun didn't know what she was thinking. She took a deep breath and said in a cool tone, "I told you I never do things without reason. I thought you knew me the best, but still you suspect me. I suppose I'm too naive."
"You know that's not what I meant," Qi Yun quietly said, his expression pained as he looked at Jun Huang. "I just don't understand why you're helping Qi Chen now."
They had known each other for decades. They could read each other well. He thinks I've thrown myself under Qi Chen's banner, Jun Huang thought. That was why Qi Yun was so afraid and conflicted…
"Qi Chen seems like a reserved gentleman, but in reality he is heartless and deceitful. Nan Guyue, on the other hand, is naive, if a little spoiled. She is well protected by her parents and brothers in Southern Mu. She will not take any abuse from anyone. In Prince Chen Manor, there is Wei Lanying, who will attack anyone standing in her way. If these three are forced to coexist in the long term, it won't go well and troubles will arise. So the marriage is not going to benefit Qi Chen. Rather, he will be too busy dealing with conflicts among his spouses and have no time for his pursuit of the throne." Jun Huang clearly laid out her points. It was difficult not to be convinced by her.
Qi Yun felt silent and let out a long sigh. Jun Huang had a point. "I was too anxious and said what I shouldn't have said. I hope you can forgive me."
Jun Huang nodded after a long pause. Then she turned away. "I know you were. Remember though, we've known each other for years. I'll never abandon you. Rest assured, when I said I would put you on the throne, I meant it with my whole heart."
Qi Yun felt his face heat up. Of course he knew what kind of a person Jun huang was. He winced. Never had he realized that he could be so distrustful.
Jun Huang didn't take it personally. Qi Yun was born into a royal family. It was in their blood to doubt others.
None of them said a word. The only thing moving in the room was the wavering smoke from the incense. Dejected, Qi Yun bid her farewell and left. Only after that did Nan Xun show himself. He had been hiding in the room.
"You lied to him," Nan Xun said without preamble.
Jun Huang arched an eyebrow at him. "What does Your Highness mean?"
Nan Xun took the seat across from her and poured himself a cup of tea. "You urged Qi Chen to marry Nan Guyue because you have lost your patience for Wei Lanying's provocation. You want Nan Guyue to draw her attention away from you."
Jun Huang snorted and drank her tea. Her silence seemed like a confirmation.
When they were leaving, Jun Huang said. "I didn't expect Your Highness to be the one person in Northern Qi that actually understands me. This is a surprise."
The emperor placed great importance on the marriage alliance between Southern Mu and Northern Qi. And to show just how much he valued this marriage, he sent a great many gifts to Prince Chen Manor early in the morning.
Jun Huang was there when Qi Chen went over the list of items. There were boxes and boxes of jewelry and gold. Didn't the emperor say the treasury is nearly empty? She thought to herself. And still he is being so wasteful.
Noticing the change in Jun Huang's expression, Qi Chen said, "I know what brother Feng is thinking, but this is the way the royal family is. Sometimes, reputation would be put before the people." He knew Jun Huang wasn't naive, but still she was hopeful that everything would change for good in the end. "I promise you, brother Feng, when I become the emperor, I will make Northern Qi peaceful and prosperous for you."
Jun Huang opened her fan and chuckled. Her eyes seemed to be filled with derision, but at the same time she didn't seem to really care. Qi Chen was observant enough to see she didn't really believe him.
"There's no point for me to say anything. My thoughts don't count. The emperor just wants to give Princess Nan Guyue a memorable wedding. There's no reason for me to judge." Jun Huang's voice was cool like the spring breeze in march.
Qi Chen wanted to say more, but in the end decided not to. He knew that Jun Huang would always be this way. She could clearly see what the others were feeling, but she would never change herself for anyone.
Without another word, Jun Huang walked out. She didn't want to spare a glance for the treasures that were obtained at the cost of the people. Her clothes brought up a layer of dust and they floated in the sunlight.
Jun Huang sauntered along the endless hallway as she enjoyed the view in the garden. The ground was covered with leaves fallen from the trees. Every maid and pageboy in the manor was working. They rushed around carrying the festive red tablecloths and plates.
She leaned against the red pillar, watching these people. If something were to happen now, she wondered how panicked they would be.
Rou'er walked over dressed in pink clothes. She looked at Jun Huang with a faint smile. A maid followed behind her silently.
"Is Rou'er feeling jealous seeing all this?" Jun Huang asked with an arched eyebrow. The smile on her face didn't reach her eyes. It was quite unnerving.
Rou'er was no fool. She could tell Jun Huang was being sarcastic. She quirked up her lips. "It's a good thing for the prince to marry Princess Nan Guyue. Rou'er is but a humble serving concubine. Why would I not be happy? All is well as long as long as the prince is doing well."
Her smile was proper and flawless. She looked genuine. Jun Huang smiled a little without saying another word and turned her gaze back to the garden. Rou'er turned to look over at the garden as well.
Qi Chen was still only a prince when he married Wei Lanying. And many important officials kept their distance to him because of the mess at the border. Now Qi Chen was the crown prince. It was only natural that he would be a lot more valued. Moreover, he was marrying the princess of Southern Mu. Waves after waves of people came up to him to congratulate him. It was quite a scene.
The wedding is impressive. A certain someone is bound to be jealous.
When Nan Guyue entered the manor wearing a phoenix cap surrounded by a group of maids, Wei Lanying balled up her handkerchief with a dark expression. Her maid could see how bitter she was feeling. If looks could kill, Nan Guyue would have been dead.
Wei Lanying believed that the only reason Qi Chen favored Nan Guyue was because she was a princess. Otherwise, Qi Chen would never spare her a glance. She had neither talents nor character. In a few days, Qi Chen would be tired of her.
The maid couldn't help but ask, "Are we going to just let that princess come into the manor, Lady Wei?" Some questions only serve to add insult to injury. They forced you to face the cold hard truth you had been trying to ignore.
Wei Lanying clenched her teeth, her nails biting deep into her palms. The anger in her heart was so strong she couldn't feel the pain.
It took a long while for her to calm down. She looked around. This wedding was grand, but it was not hers. "What am I supposed to do?" she said bitterly. "The prince was determined to marry her. I can only let him. That's the only way for me to stay here. I only have myself to blame getting married into the royal family. This is the way it is. I can't blame my luck. I can't blame him for being heartless."
The maid felt even more disgruntled. The prideful woman was reduced to this by the reality. She felt sorry for her.
"Don't say that, Lady Wei. The prince married you because he knew you were a good woman. He's just blindsided by another woman."
Wei Lanying didn't want to see Nan Guyue in the manor. She didn't want to see Qi Chen proudly taking Nan Guyue as his wife. She took a deep breath and turned around. At this moment, she was more aware of her own thoughts than she had ever been.
Her loneliness was in stark contrast with the lively energy on the other side of the manor. Nan Guyue was no ordinary woman. The moment she stepped into the manor, she excitedly took down the red veil over her face and looked around. Only when she saw Qi Chen did her expression turn shy.
Jun Huang saw everything. She walked up to her with a smile. "The princess is truly one of a kind."