Chapter 68: Fury
Noticing Nan Xun's gaze, Jun Huang turned to look at him and saw his intense gaze. She quickly averted her eyes. Nan Xun scratched his nose. Am I really that scary?
Jun Huang took a deep breath before continuing with her explanation. "Every father in the world wants his children to accompany him often. The emperor is the ruler of a country. He sits on the throne looking upon the people who bow down to him. However, does anyone ever notice the loneliness eating away his heart? That's why he needs familial love. Go visit the emperor often when Your Highness has the time. He will be touched by your devotion to him."
The more Qi Yun thought about it, the more he saw her point. This question had been dragging him down for so long, and she provided an answer so readily! She really was a rare asset.
Years ago, the princess he knew had been loved by tens of thousands of people. Tragedies forced her to transform into a cunning woman.
Jun Huang could tell Qi Yun was preoccupied with his thoughts. She could also feel his gaze on him, causing a small smile to appear on her lips.
She knew what he was thinking. Endless tragedies had lead her to become who she was today. Her smile was merely a cover for her true feelings.
The atmosphere in the room was too tense for her liking. "It's early still. Perhaps we can get some drinks?"
"No," Nan Xun said without hesitation. He never forgot that there was poison running rampant in Jun Huang's body. The doctor had said she shouldn't drink. And alcohol was bad for one's health in general.
Qi Yun got to his feet and smoothed the wrinkles on his clothes. He cupped his hands at Jun Huang and Nan Xun. "Unfortunately, there are matters I have to attend to. Please excuse me."
On his way back to the palace, Qi Yun felt a bone deep tiredness inside him. He went to the Royal Cemetery and spent some time talking to his mother. It made him feel a little lighter.
Once he was near the room where the emperor worked on affairs of the state, the emperor's personal eunuch spotted him and rushed to give him a bow. Qi Yun gestured at him to be at ease and asked with a low voice, "Has Royal Father not retired to bed yet?"
The eunuch nodded. "Indeed His Majesty hasn't. This old servant tried to convince His Majesty to stop working, but to no avail. The fourth prince must know that despite how hale and hearty His Majesty appears to be, he has been coughing every night. This old servant is deeply concerned."
Qi Yun lowered his head in bemusement. Just then, a servant came to bring medicine to the emperor. Qi Yun remembered what Jun Huang had said earlier. He took the medicine and gave the eunuch a heads up before entering the room.
The emperor was immersed in the reports on the desk. Hearing the footsteps, he thought it was the eunuch, so he didn't even look up from the reports. Only when he smelled the medicine and lifted his head did he see that it was Qi Yun.
"Why are you here, Yun'er?" The emperor's knitted eyebrows relaxed and he looked at Qi Yun with a genuine smile.
Qi Yun put the bowl of medicine on the table and knelt down with his hands cupped. "This son has come to visit Royal Father without notifying you in advance. I hope Royal Father may forgive me."
The emperor let out a sigh and helped Qi Yun up, patting his hand. "You came all the way to visit me. Why would I blame you?"
"Affairs of the state may be important, Royal Father," Qi Yun said worriedly, "But you have to take care of yourself. You must not push yourself to the point that you become ill."
"I know my limits." He led Qi Yun to a chair nearby and sat down. The chess board showed an unfinished game. Qi Yun wondered who the emperor was playing against. The two appeared to be in an equal match.
Qi Yun and the emperor had a long conversation. In the end, the emperor lamented, "Among all my sons, you are the one closest to me."
"That's not true. Hasn't Royal Father always been fond of second brother? Besides, not long from now, second brother will be able to shoulder some of Royal Father's burden. You won't have to work so hard then." Qi Yun's tone was nonchalant, but there was a hint of reluctance in his voice. The emperor was observant enough to notice it.
He didn't suspect Qi Yun, however. This boy is simply upset for what happened to his mother. The emperor sighed and took Qi Yun's hand. "I know Chen'er has been working hard with the officials, but he can't spend as much time with me as you do. He's married after all."
After Qi Yun took his leave, Jun Huang felt like it was time for her to return as well. Qi Chen might grow suspicious if she stayed out for too long. She got to her feet.
Nan Xun stood up as well. He cleared his throat and said with fake nonchalance, "I'll walk you back. It's on the way." Before Jun Huang could say anything, he had walked out of the tavern. Jun Huang shook her head and laughed before following him out.
There were many residents in the imperial city, and many coaches roamed the streets. These rich men certainly don't have the rules in mind, Nan Xun thought. The emperor had stipulated that no private coaches were to travel through the main streets in the city. And yet very few actually complied.
Horses galloped through the city, bringing up a smog of dust into the air. Nan Xun was worried that the speeding coaches may hit Jun Huang; he kept to the side to the road, shielding her from danger.
Jun Huang had noticed his action, but she had no experience in romantic love. She thought that this was only a habit Nan Xun had developed as a man. It must be part of his instinct. She didn't think too much of it.
They had a great time as they walked. Jun Huang had a faint smile on her face as she talked about anything and everything with Nan Xun, and Nan Xun shared with her many interesting things he had encountered in his military life.
It brought to her mind an epic picture of a vast wildland with a lone pillar of smoke. She could almost hear the blood pumping through the soldiers' bodies. Those men who have fought on battlefields must bear a resemblance to Nan Xun, she thought. He has this gleam in his eyes that cannot be ignored.
Neither of them noticed the man who had caught a glimpse of their interaction. It was the housekeeper of Prince Chen Manor. He could be considered a confidante of Qi Chen. He knew that Qi Chen considered Nan Xun an adversary. Now, seeing Jun Huang and Nan Xun talking to one another with a smile, his attention was caught and he rushed back to the manor through a shortcut.
Qi Chen happened to be leaving his building with an annoyed expression. The housekeeper took a peek and saw Wei Lanying collapsed on the chair with tears streaming down her face. They must have gotten into a fight again.
"What happened? Why are you in such a hurry?" Qi Chen frowned at the housekeeper, paying no mind to the sobbing Wei Lanying.
The housekeeper leaned into Qi Chen and said with a low voice, "This old servant happened to run into gentleman Feng on the main street. He was with Prince Nan Xun, and they seemed close."
Qi Chen's face grew a shade darker and he threw Wei Lanying a poisonous glare. She shuddered, holding back her tears, and ran away covering her face.
Back to her own place, Wei Lanying slapped her maid with her teeth clenched without warning. The maid felt her ear ringing and she knelt on the floor crying.
"Useless!" Wei Lanying growled.
Earlier, she had sent the maid to wait at the front door. Wei Lanying hadn't seen Qi Chen for a long time, and she had missed him. She put on makeup and waited for the maid to come retrieve her.
Not long after, the maid told her that Qi Chen had returned. She happily went up to the gate. The one she first saw was Nan Guyue, however, who had gone to the palace with Qi Chen to visit Consort Zhen. She couldn't stop herself from mocking the princess. Nan Guyue was never one to back down. They got into a heated argument.
In rage, she gave Nan Guyue a push. It would have been worse if Qi Chen hadn't caught Nan Guyue in time.
Qi Chen slapped Wei Lanying and had someone help Nan Guyue back to their room. Wei Lanying reverted to her old habit of reminding Qi Chen who it was that helped him become the crown prince. Qi Chen slapped her again with the back of his hand and told her to behave in a harsh tone. If there was a next time, he wouldn't hesitate to divorce her.
Jun Huang bid farewell to Nan Xun under a cherry tree. Petals of the cherry blossoms fell from above them and some landed on Jun Huang's hair. Nan Xun took them off her head as if he had done it a thousand times. Jun Huang couldn't help the blood rushing to her face.
She grabbed Nan Xun's hand and looked away. Nan Xun smiled widely at her bashful expression. He showed the petals to her. "I was only taking these off. What are you thinking about?"
His teasing words made her blush harder. She brushed him away and ran toward the manor without saying goodbye.
Once she reached the manor, she saw Qi Chen under a parasol tree. Jun Huang prepared herself mentally and waited until her blush had faded before she went up to him. She cupped her hands. "Why isn't Your Highness with the princess? Are you enjoying the view of the flowers?"
Qi Chen turned to her with cold eyes and scoffed. "I don't need you to tell me what I should or shouldn't do. Remember your place."
Jun Huang was rendered speechless. Why was Qi Chen so angry? She twisted her lips, a little upset. "Has Your Highness encountered a difficulty? Would you mind telling this gentleman about it? Then I can maybe shoulder your burden."
An epiphany hit her suddenly and she added, "Or, am I the reason behind Your Highness's bad mood?"
Qi Chen looked Jun Huang in the eyes and sat down at the table. He took a deep breath before answering, "The housekeeper was out on an errand. He told me something. Something that greatly disappointed me." He played with a teacup while he watched Jun Huang at the corner of his eye, cataloging every change in her expression.
Ah, he must have seen me with Nan Xun. She wondered what exactly the housekeeper had said to Qi Chen. She didn't want to jump to conclusions. Tentatively, she asked, "What did he tell you?"