Chapter 66: Rejection
Consort Zhen didn't expect this to be the root of Wan'er's worries. She wondered who it was that had caught the girl's fancy.
Consort Zhen relaxed and took Wan'er's fair hands. "Who is this gentleman? Tell me. I will speak to your father and ask him to make arrangements for you."
Wan'er pulled her hands away, her face reddening in shyness. "He – he isn't from an esteemed family…"
"Then who is he?"
"I don't know. I've only seen him a few times. He seems close to both second brother and brother Nan Xun. He looks like a god…" Wan'er's voice faded bit by bit, becoming a barely audible whisper in the end.
From what she had heard, Consort Zhen had already more or less figured out who Wan'er was talking about, but she didn't want to believe it. She continued to ask, "How do you know him?"
"I met him once at the banquet of a hundred families. I don't think he remembers. Yesterday, we met at the temple again. That's when I fell for him." Wan'er paused and added, "Oh, and second brother and sister-in-law were there as well."
Now she was definitely talking about Jun Huang. Consort Zhen wanted to tell her to give up, but Wan'er looked so full of joy she couldn't say it. She didn't want to ruin that beautiful smile.
She sighed inwardly. Children will find their happiness themselves. There's no use worrying too much. "If you like him, mother will talk to your second brother in a few days. Your second brother will be able to help you. I hope you won't regret it, however. Feng Baiyu is a calculating man – "
Wan'er didn't want to listen to Consort Zhen criticizing Jun Huang. She cut her off. "I know. Thank you, mother, for being willing to help. I can tell gentleman Feng is an extraordinary man with integrity. If I get married to him, we will lead a wonderful life."
Consort Zhen shook her head. Wan'er had made up her mind.
The blush on Wan'er face gradually faded. She stood up and turned around.
"What if he isn't willing, Wan'er?" Consort Zhen asked before Wan'er left.
Wan'er was caught off guard. Then her expression changed into an open smile. She had never thought about this question. Or, she never thought it was necessary to think about it. "Do you really think of me as someone so undesirable, mother? Besides, I am a princess. He is but a man with no status. There's no reason for him to turn me down."
"What if he only wants to be with you because he wants status? What if he doesn't love you?" Consort Zhen did want the best for her children. She didn't want Wan'er to get hurt in any way.
Wan'er looked down at the floor and contemplated for a good while. She smiled, her hesitation melting away. "Even so, Wan'er is confident that I will be able to make him fall for me after we get together."
She took off after that.
Consort Zhen sighed. She didn't like Feng Baiyu. She thought that his heart was impure and that he was too cunning. He was a potential threat she had to be wary of. But Wan'er liked him. There was nothing the consort could do but to grant her her wish.
After a few days, Qi Chen entered the palace to pay his mother a visit. Consort Zhen told the servants to leave and invited Qi Chen to take a seat. Qi Chen obliged. He filled two cups up with tea and put one before the consort. The other he picked up and took a sip.
"Does Feng Baiyu has someone he'd like to marry, Chen'er?" Consort Zhen asked tentatively.
Qi Chen wondered why she asked. He shook his head. "Brother Feng is used to being alone. He hasn't thought at all about marriage. He doesn't even have someone he likes. Why did mother ask?"
Consort Zhen felt her heart settle. She was worried that Jun Huang may have someone she liked already. Then Wan'er wouldn't be treated well after marriage. Now it seemed Jun Huang could be a good enough match. At least there would be no romantic rivals.
Consort Zhen didn't waste any more time before she got to the point. "It's a coincidence. A few days ago, Wan'er went to the temple as well. She fell in love with Feng Baiyu at first sight and had been pining for him ever since. She came to me to ask me about it. She knew that you know Feng Baiyu very well. And she's shy. So she asked me to tell you about it. If Feng Baiyu is willing, she would very much like to get married to him."
Qi Chen didn't expect his stubborn sister to fall for the aloof Jun Huang. He was shocked, and his cup fell onto the table, drenching the tablecloth with tea. That broke him out of his trance.
He couldn't believe it. "Did Wan'er tell you herself?"
"Naturally. Do you think I would make something like this up? You know I never liked Feng Baiyu. If Wan'er didn't like him, I wouldn't be talking to you about this."
Qi Chen stopped to think about it. A marriage could work. Jun Huang was single. If he let his beloved sister get married to Jun Huang, Jun Huang would have a tighter relationship with him, and she would be more open to him. Besides, it would make Wan'er happy.
He nodded. "Don't worry, mother. This son will take care of it. Wan'er does have keen eyes for character. If she get married to brother Feng, it will be thanks to both of their good fortunes."
Consort Zhen smiled, but she didn't agree with him. She thought that Jun Huang must have done something good in her past life to deserve Wan'er's affection.
It was human nature to think your children were better than anyone else. Even if they were marrying elites of the greatest calibre, you'd think their spouses weren't good enough for them.
Qi Chen went straight to the side building after returning to the manor. Jun Huang was reading a book lying on a chair. Even Qi Chen felt envious of her.
She wore a white robe with black patterns. Her dark hair was tied in the back with a hairband. Her fair face showed an aloof expression. It was as if there was nothing in the world that could make her frown, that could break her calm.
Hearing his footsteps, Jun Huang lifted her head. She was going to stand up and bow to Qi Chen, but he stopped her.
"There's no need for that, brother Feng," Qi Chen said with a smile and waved his hand. "When no one is around, we're brothers. Younger brothers don't bow to their older brothers."
Qi Chen's words were difficult to argue with. Jun Huang couldn't find it in herself to call him brother, however. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
She put down her book and invited Qi Chen to take a seat. She picked up the pot of tea she had brewed in the morning and poured him a cup.
Jun Huang took a sip of her tea. "Why has Your Royal Highness come to see me? Is something the matter?"
"Brother Feng reminded me. I'm here today on someone's request." Qi Chen lightly slapped himself on the head and put down his teacup. He looked straight into her eyes. She didn't flinch or look away.
Qi Chen was going to just announce his intention, but he couldn't say it in face of Jun Huang's clear eyes. He found a less direct way to express his thoughts. "Um, brother Feng has been in Northern Qi for a while. There are many beautiful women here. Is there anyone you've set your eyes on?"
Without thinking too much, Jun Huang shook her head. "This gentleman is all alone. I don't even have my own place to let my hair down. I can't possibly have a woman live such a life with me. It's better that I stay single."
"There's no one you like?" Qi Chen asked insistently.
"What if there's someone who adores you?" Qi Chen asked. "Are you willing to take them as your wife?"
Jun Huang started to catch on. Thinking back to Nan Xun's observation, she soon figured out who Qi Chen was referring to. She dropped down to one knee and cupped her hands. "Your Royal Highness must know what kind of a person I am," she said as openly as she could. "This gentleman wants nothing but to serve a great leader and lift our people out of misery. I have never once dreamed about having princess Wan'er's affection. I know I'm not good enough for her. May Your Royal Highness make the right decision."
Qi Chen never expected such a strong reaction from Jun Huang. He was suddenly filled with rage. "Don't forget your place, Feng Baiyu! Do you know who Wan'er is? She's someone way above you. You have no right to reject her."
"This gentleman only knows that with my status, I won't be a good match for the princess. That's the reason behind my rejection. Moreover, my family members passed away only a couple months ago. This gentleman has to mourn and stay single for at least three years." Her tone was determined. She was on her knee, but she didn't seem weak at all. Her back was as straight as a pine tree and her eyes as clear as water. "I will never look down on the princess. Besides, this gentleman has an ambition. If I marry the princess, I won't be able to fulfil my potential. The princess's affection is in the wrong place and I am deeply sorry. I hope Your Royal Highness can explain to the princess."
Qi Chen drank his tea and looked over at Jun Huang. He didn't tell her to be at ease. He wanted to know how stubborn she could be.
Clearly, she had an unbendable backbone. She knelt with her teeth clenched and didn't move a muscle despite how much she was sweating.
Qi Chen was the one to back away. He thought Jun Huang to be arrogant and took his leave with a huff, leaving Jun Huang kneeling in the room.
A breeze blew in and chilled her to the bone. She shuddered, her face as pale as a sheet. She took a deep breath and forced herself to stand up. Her back was drenched with sweats.
At least Qi Chen had left. He must have given up if his expression was anything to go by. Good. That was one problem solved then. Jun Huang sat back down and took a gulp of the cooled tea. The bitter taste in her throat was overwhelming.
Wan'er waited for Qi Chen to deliver the good news with great excitement. She blushed every time she thought about Jun Huang. She never knew that she could be so in love with someone.
"What did gentleman Feng say, second brother?" She looked up at him hopefully, her eyes so bright it made it difficult to say anything that might hurt her feelings. Qi Chen sighed. He didn't want to do this.