Chapter 60: Falling into Water
The three of them walked towards an old tree with red ribbons tied to its branches. By the tree, some monks had set up stands to tell fortunes and give blessings.
Revenge was the only goal Jun Huang kept in mind. Matters of the heart did not interest her. She went to the old monk on the fringe of the line of stands and put her hands together as a show of respect. She closed her eyes. The breeze sent her black hair flying and it tangled with the catkins in the air.
The monk returned the gesture and asked Jun Huang to take a seat. "Is the gentleman praying for someone?"
"Yes," Jun Huang said calmly. "My younger brother and a friend." She was thinking about her long lost brother and Qi Yun.
The monk nodded. He took out two talismans for safety and handed them to Jun Huang. They were triangle in shape and bright red in color. "Here. These can ensure a lifetime of safety and peace."
Jun Huang took the talismans and put some silvers into the donation box next to the stand. She stood up and left. Nan Jihan jogged up to her and asked curiously, "The gentleman has a brother? Why haven't I heard about it?"
Jun Huang would rather not talk about Jun Hao. Losing him was the nightmare that tortured her every day. She lowered her eyes and continued onwards without a word.
Nan Xun hadn't gone with Jun Huang. Instead, he went to another monk, who was telling fortunes in love. The monk considered him with narrowed eyes before asking, "What does the gentleman seek?"
"Love is right within the gentleman's reach. Why do you come seeking it?" The monk gave him a friendly smile. "Finding the right person may seem like an impossible dream, but they're right by your side."
Nan Xun frowned. A wind brought up the red ribbons on the tree, drawing his attention.
He looked down and saw Jun Huang under the tree. Behind her was Nan Jihan, who had not stopped talking.
Nan Jihan noticed the plaque on the table Nan Xun was at. His eyes lighted up as he came up to the stand. He nudged Nan Xun aside and smiled at the monk. "May the abbot tell me my fortunes in love?"
The monk closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes again, there was no emotions within them. He put his hands together and said, "The person the almsgiver is trying to win over isn't meant for you. The right one will appear naturally one day. Love cannot be forced."
It was ominous to say the least. Even Nan Jihan himself didn't understand what the monk was talking about, let alone other people. He pouted, muttering, "I don't care if it's the right one or not. What matters is if I like them."
Nan Xun and Jun Huang didn't hear him, but the monk did. He shook his head and chanted, "Amituofo1. May Buddha preserve us."
Jun Huang snorted and shook her head. These two men came to the temple to ask for fortunes in love? Are they bored out of their mind?
She looked up and fell into Nan Xun's dark eyes. She didn't know they could be so beautiful.
Nan Xun couldn't get the monk's words out of his head. A voice said in his head, maybe Jun Huang is the one meant for me.
Another voice said, even if fate dictates that she isn't right for me, I still believe she is.
Nan Xun's gaze was so intense, Jun Huang couldn't help looking away. "It's late. We should follow the customs of where we are and try the vegetarian meals." She turned around and started walking away. Nan Xun and Nan Jihan followed her without a word.
The sun had set when they finished dinner. It was the temple fair, however. There would only be more and more people coming to the temple later into the night. Jun Huang never liked crowds. She frowned and said to Nan Jihan and Nan Xun, "It's late. This gentleman will take my leave. Excuse me for not being able to accompany you."
"This prince is getting tired as well," Nan Jihan said. "Let me give you a ride back."
Jun Huang nodded. She left with Nan Jihan after bidding Nan Xun farewell.
Back to Prince Chen Manor, Nan Jihan had planned to pay Nan Guyue a visit and say goodbye to her. His shadow guard arrived at the manor from the relay station, however, and told him that Southern Mu had had sent him a message. He had no choice but to depart now.
Jun Huang let out a sigh of relief once he disappeared. She felt agitated all of a sudden. She didn't take a good look at the bustling activities in the temple earlier. Now, from several streets away, the fair still seemed too chaotic for her.
She had enjoyed watching the scenery with Nan Xun today, and they had talked quite a lot. It seemed like they would never run out of things to say to each other.
Excluding Nan Jihan was something she did on purpose. Nan Jihan's gaze still made her uncomfortable. Nan Jihan should know where the line was now after how she had treated him today.
She was reminded of the way Nan Xun had looked at her. His indiscernible gaze made her heart race.
She didn't know how long it had been since the last time she felt so much like a woman. It felt… good. She didn't dislike it.
She walked through the winding hallway and saw Qi Chen and Nan Guyue in the pavilion by the lotus pond. Qi Chen was behind her, teaching her how to play the zither. Nan Guyue tilted her head back to look at him.
Not far from them stood Wei Lanying with a lunchbox in her hand. She ground her teeth together as she looked at the couple. Her eyes were terrifyingly cold. It looked like she wanted to tear Nan Guyue to pieces.
What gave her the courage to do so, however? She was but a concubine. She was nothing compared to Nan Guyue.
Jun Huang had always known that Nan Guyue actually had a kind heart. She could be stubborn and difficult at times, but she would never willingly hurt anyone. Wei Lanying was a different story. She was calculating and insidious. Her heart was as ugly as her now twisted expression. She was difficult to like.
That must be what Qi Chen thought as well. When Wei Lanying first came to the manor, Qi Chen let her get away with many things. Now, though, he rarely even spare her a glance.
The one that was pitiful was often hateful as well.
Jun Huang looked from a distance, scoffing. A prideful woman like Wei Lanying had lost herself simply because she lost the affection of her man. How pathetic.
When Jun Huang was immersed in her thoughts, Wei Lanying turned around and saw Jun Huang. The dangling ornament on her hairpin was still shaking from the movement. The gem and the glass marble shone under the candlelight. They were as brilliant as the stars in the sky.
Jun Huang looked back at her without any expression. It made Wei Lanying angry. In her mind, Jun Huang was to blame for all her suffering.
Qi Chen wouldn't have married Nan Guyue if not for Jun Huang.
Wei Lanying was blinded by her obsession. She was only one of the many in this large world.
She came up to Jun Huang and stopped when they were only a foot apart. She glowered at Jun Huang.
"The gentleman is here to greet Lady Wei," Jun Huang said cooly. There was no trace of respect in her tone.
Without warning, Wei Lanying slapped Jun Huang in the face. It caught her off guard. She didn't expect Wei Lanying to do so right in front of Qi Chen.
The slap startled Qi Chen and Nan Guyue. Qi Chen shot to his feet and saw Jun Huang. He noticed the handprint on her pale face.
Qi Chen didn't knew he had come to care about Jun Huang this much. He walked straight towards Wei Lanying. Nan Guyue followed after him with a frown. She wasn't yet sure what had happened.
"What did you do, Wei Lanying?" Qi Chen demanded.
Wei Lanying suddenly came to her senses. Her palm was still numb from the slap. She herself didn't quite realize what she had done. She turned to face Jun Huang.
Jun Huang tilted her head and looked at the lotuses in the pond. It was difficult to tell from her expression if she was angry or not.
Wei Lanying had lost control because of the overwhelming hatred filling her heart. She couldn't regret it more now, but there was nothing she could say to defend herself.
She nervously pulled at Qi Chen's sleeve and showed him the lunchbox in her hand. "Your Highness… I – I came to offer you some snacks. I didn't – "
Thud! The lunchbox was knocked off to the ground and the snacks inside fell out. Under the moonlight, they were not unlike jades falling from the sky.
Wei Lanying didn't expect Qi Chen to be so heartless. He cast aside the fruit of her labor for a mere honored guest! She stared at the snacks with unfocused eyes. What could she possibly do?
After a long pause, her eyes flicked to Qi Chen and she croaked, "So this is how Your Highness treats Ying'er's love."
Qi Chen had always been cold. He used to show decorum and respect for Wei Lanying, but now things had changed. He was the crown prince. He was meant to be superior. How was it possible for him to care about Wei Lanying's feelings? She was only a concubine to him. She wasn't worth his attention.
His silence riled her up further. She seized the collars of Qi Chen's robe in her hands and sobbed. Anyone else would have taken pity on her. "Have you forgotten how you became the crown prince, Qi Chen? If not for me, you would only be one of the many royal princes, and you wouldn't be noticed…"
The words were insulting. Qi Chen pushed Wei Lanying away forcefully. She lost her balance and fell into the pond, making a huge splash.
Jun Huang didn't expect things to get this ugly. Nan Guyue was surprised as well. She didn't know what to do.
The pond was shallow, but Wei Lanying didn't realize it. She had never fallen into the pond before. She struggled to get up, but she couldn't. She choked on the water as she called out for help.
Jun Huang couldn't stand on the sideline anymore. She went to help Wei Lanying get to her feet, but Wei Lanying refused to take her hand.
After a good while. Wei Lanying finally stood up. Her vibrant dress was soaked. It stuck to her body and made her look a little plump. Her dark hair was an unkempt mess.
She clenched her teeth and got up by holding onto the stone pillar by the pond. She threw Jun Huang a venomous glare and purposefully knocked into Jun Huang as she walked away. Jun Huang staggered and barely kept her balance.
Chinese pronunciation of the Sankrit name Amitabha Buddha. Used as greetings, prayers, and general interjections. ↩