Chapter 65: Jun Huang's Admirer
Outside the main palace was a lively garden. The air gained an earthy smell after the rain. Jun Huang took a deep breath with her eyes closed. It was refreshing.
"What are you here for today?" Nan Xun asked.
Jun Huang opened her eyes and looked at the crabapple flowers. She chuckled. This whole situation was ridiculous. "The kind hearted prince took me here to ask for blessings in love."
Nan Xun blinked and started laughing. Worried that he may have offended her, he quickly covered his mouth and coughed.
Jun Huang shrugged and let Nan Xun laugh at her. She bent down to smell the flowers.
It took a good while for Nan Xun to stop laughing. He cleared his throat. "Qi Chen is trying to show you his appreciation. He must have spoken about this many times. After all, the gentleman is at the peak of your charm. There must be many women lining up to get your attention."
Jun Huang could tell he was teasing her. She threw him a glare and started a friendly argument with him. Neither of them noticed that princess Wan'er was standing in the hallway watching them.
Nan Xun had come to the temple with Wan'er. They didn't expect to run into Jun Huang and the others. Wan'er watched Jun Huang from the distance. What she saw took her breath away.
It wasn't the first time she had seen Jun Huang, but this time, Jun Huang really made an impression on her. The turquoise robe framed her body and her dark hair danced in the wind. There was a hint of smile on her lips. She looked like a gentle young man. Wan'er was almost startled by how stunningly handsome Jun Huang was. She even felt a little light-headed.
Nan Xun soon noticed that Wan'er was watching them. Wan'er knew she couldn't hide from him, so she showed herself and greeted them with a smile.
Jun Huang cupped her hands and said with a polite but aloof tone, "Princess."
Jun Huang's clear voice made Wan'er blush. She took a step back, but her eyes were glued to Jun Huang. "Well met, gentleman Feng. There is no need to be so formal. The gentleman may call me Wan'er."
"This gentleman should not overstep the boundaries." Jun Huang's tone was still distant. It didn't make Wan'er angry. On the contrary, she felt even more attracted to Jun Huang for her dignified attitude.
Wan'er bit into her bottom lip without a word, her eyes downcast. Nan Xun was familiar with this kind of expression, and he knew Wan'er well. He stepped between Wan'er and Jun Huang, obscuring her view. He had a bad feeling about this.
"Have you gone to check on the crown prince and the princess?" Nan Xun asked.
Wan'er came to her senses and ran away with an exclaim. Then she stopped and looked back at Jun Huang with her face flushed. "Today the gentleman displayed an even more captivating figure. If the opportunity presents itself, Wan'er would like to buy the gentleman the finest wine in the imperial city. I hope the gentleman won't turn me down." She turned back and ran away.
Before Jun Huang could react, Nan Xun had taken her wrist and led her to the lodging at the back of the temple. Once she was in Nan Xun's room, he shut the door behind them. Jun Huang started and came out of her daze.
She rarely stayed in a room with a man on her own. For a while she didn't know where to put her hands. Her body was tensed. She coughed and took a seat at the table before pouring herself a cup of tea. She took a few sips, but she couldn't really taste it.
Nan Xun was deep in thoughts. In the end he let out a sigh and sat across from Jun Huang. His hesitance drew Jun Huang's attention. She put down the teacup and looked at him, waiting for him to speak.
"From the way Princess Wan'er acted, She may have…" Nan Xun couldn't continue and fell quiet.
"What?" Jun Huang asked in confusion.
Nan Xun coughed and looked away. "She may have fallen for you."
Jun Huang's face turned beet red. She never thought for a moment that the young woman dressed in pink with an elegant hairdo would fall for her. Nan Xun's words reminded her of Wan'er's bashful look. She had thought that Wan'er just had too much makeup on. She only realized now that Wan'er's cheeks were pink because of her.
Had Wan'er really fallen for her after only one glance?
She broke into sweats, her back drenched. Her hand trembled and some of the tea spilled out over her fingers.
Nan Xun had been worried, but looking at Jun Huang's red cheeks, he couldn't help but be amused. He gave Jun Huang a playful look and said, "Wan'er is a famous beauty in Northern Qi. Countless young men have fought to attract her attention, but she never set her eyes on anyone. Why doesn't the gentleman just marry her?"
"Besides, the gentleman is no regular character, and you are handsome. It's only natural that women would adore you. The fallen flower is in love with you. Do you reciprocate her love?" Nan Xun kept his eyes on Jun Huang, watching her face reddening in shyness. His smile deepened.
"What are you talking about? You know that – that I can't marry her." Her voice faded into a murmur, then into silence. She took a deep breath. Her face had regained her usual composure. She took a sip of tea to calm herself.
Nan Xun didn't comment further. He went out and asked a little monk to send in a vegetarian meal. He invited Jun Huang to share it with him. Halfway through dinner, Nan Xun said, "It seems that you can't stay any longer here. I'll take you back shortly."
Jun Huang nodded. She didn't want run into Wan'er again. She finished the food and ordered Wei Qian to send a message to Qi Chen before returning to the imperial city with Nan Xun.
Wan'er ran to the room Qi Chen and Nan Guyue were staying in. Before she got in, she saw Qi Chen ordering servants to move the empress chair into the backyard. After Nan Guyue had sat down, he took a robe and put it around Nan Guyue. He was so gentle it made Wan'er envious.
"Hm? Why are you here, Wan'er?" Nan Guyue noticed her first. She struggled to get up, but Qi Chen stopped her.
Qi Chen turned to Wan'er. His eyes were still filled with the tenderness he had looked at Nan Guyue with. Wan'er gaped at them, thinking back to Jun Huang. If he looks at me like that, I'll die happy.
Seeing her unfocused eyes, Qi Chen frowned. "Has something happened?"
Wan'er quickly recovered and shook her head with a blush. She coughed before skipping to Nan Guyue's side. She marveled at her round belly. She wanted to touch it, but Qi Chen didn't let her.
Wan'er pouted and complained, "I'm only going to touch it. Why are you so nervous?"
Qi Chen threw her a glare and smoothed Nan Guyue's clothes for her. Nan Guyue had mellowed ever since her pregnancy. There was a gentle aura around her. Her crinkled eyes were soft and tender.
Wan'er considered her. The last time she saw Nan Guyue, Nan Guyue was taken into the palace by Qi Chen to greet Consort Zhen. At the time, Nan Guyue couldn't have been more difficult. Consort Zhen was her elder, but Nan Guyue was a princess. She didn't need to obey the consort, and the consort couldn't say anything even though she was angry. Now that Nan Guyue was pregnant, everyone would be even more indulgent to her.
Wan'er's mind went wandering again. Nan Guyue smiled with a hint of resignation. "What happened to you today?"
"Hm? Oh, no. I'm just thinking about why you're here as well. It's such a coincidence." She scratched her head as if she hadn't been thinking about other things.
Nan Guyue looked down at her belly and her smile widened. "We're here to pray for the child. We hope he will be able to grow up healthily."
"He will," Wan'er said.
Wei Qian came into the room and leaned in to tell Qi Chen something. Qi Chen expression changed for a brief moment. Nan Guyue thought it must be something important, so she didn't ask.
After having the meal, Wan'er excused herself. She walked around in the temple, but she never ran into Jun Huang. She sighed in disappointment and went back to the place she had met Jun Huang, watching the flowers with a distant look in her eyes.
A little monk happened to spot her. It was getting late. He went up to her and said, "The night has come and the air is humid. The alms-giver should go back to your room to rest."
"Do you know which room Nan Xun is in?" she asked. Jun Huang had been with Nan Xun earlier. They must have known each other. Maybe she could try to find out more about Jun Huang from Nan Xun.
"Sir Nan had left for a long while."
Wan'er shot up to her feet, startling the little monk. He took a step back and watched her nervously. He was worried that this stubborn princess might do something inappropriate.
Wan'er could see she had startled the monk. She cleared her throat and brushed her hair with her fingers, making herself presentable as a princess. "Did he leave alone?"
The monk shook his head, but didn't explain further. He told Wan'er to go back to her room before taking his leave. Wan'er stood in the garden for a while. The wind was cool against her skin, but her heart was burning.
"Have I really fallen for him?" Wan'er muttered. She was excited by the possibility. All these years, countless handsome young men had fallen under her dress, but she had never found a good match. Now that Jun Huang had appeared in her sight like a god descending from the heaven, she was convinced that they were meant to be.
The next early morning, Wan'er returned to the palace. Consort Zhen sent for her and had some smalltalk with her.
Wan'er kept getting distracted because she was thinking about Jun Huang, and there was a wistfulness to her expression. It surprised Consort Zhen. This girl had always been free of worries. The consort had never seen her act this way.
Consort Zhen took a fragrant tea olive cake and took a bite. "You have been distracted, Wan'er. Have you done something to make your father unhappy?"
"What? No! That's not all I've ever done. Is that how mother thinks of me?" Wan'er pouted. It made the consort chuckle. She was even more curious about the reasons behind Wan'er's unusual behavior.
"Then tell me what happened, will you not?"
Wan'er fidgeted and lowered her eyes, unable to meet the consort's gaze. She held onto her clothes. Her heart was beating hard. It took a good moment for her to muster the courage. "Mother, I think I have fallen for someone."