Chapter 76: Moving out of Prince Chen Manor
Jun Huang smiled in response and nodded. She waited until Qi Chen had calmed down from his ecstasy before saying, "Your Royal Highness, have you heard about the news that the emperor bestowed his favor on the banished empress last night? He caught a cold as a result."
Qi Chen was startled. It was obvious that he was caught off guard. "Royal Father told me that I could stop attending the court meetings for a while. He said that I should rest after all the hard work I've done… Wasn't Consort Ping's title taken away already? Why would Royal Father show her any affection?"
"The emperor cannot be predicted. Consort Zhen asked me to tell Your Royal Highness that you should protect you unborn child at all costs. After the child is born, we can start figuring out a plan."
Qi Chen nodded and gestured for Jun Huang to leave. She made her way to the garden since she didn't have anything important to do.
At the entrance of the garden, she ran into Wei Lanying. Jun Huang cursed under her breath. Fortune never smiled upon her. She managed to pull her lips into a smile and greeted Wei Lanying, who scoffed at her in response, giving her the cold shoulder.
"Don't you think it's high time that you leave the manor, Feng Baiyu?" Wei Lanying said, her tone mocking.
Jun Huang arched an eyebrow. "Oh? Why?"
"You are a man, and yet you wander around the back of the manor so often. Do you know how many women there are in this manor? Who knows what you're trying to do?" She spat the words as if she couldn't stand the fact that a man like Jun Huang was breathing the same air as her.
Jun Huang didn't know if she wanted to cry or laugh. She dressed like a man for her own convenience, and now this woman attacked her for being a man. Jun Huang huffed silently. Even if she had been a man, she would never set her eyes on a woman like Wei Lanying. Wei Lanying had greatly overestimated her own charms.
Jun Huang turned around and walked towards the side building. There was nothing she could say to Wei Lanying. Wei Lanying stomped her feet in rage.
Wei Lanying's maid pointed at Jun Huang's back and said, "Look at him, Lady Wei. He didn't take your words seriously. And on top of that, he acted so rudely to you. He truly is a hateful man."
Wei Lanying scoffed. "So? He is only an honored guest. Once the prince has no use for him, he will be kicked out. Go arrange for someone to follow Feng Baiyu. Teach him a lesson once he's alone. Then he won't dare to speak to me like that." With that, she took off.
The maid pouted and caught up to her without a word. She didn't want to anger Wei Lanying again.
Once back to the side building, Jun Huang picked up the cup of cold tea on the table and took a sip. She took a deep breath before sitting down. What Wei Lanying said wasn't completely without merit.
Now, living in Prince Chen Manor, there was always someone watching her every move. Wei Qian, for example, was sent by Qi Chen to spy on her.
Recently, Qi Chen had needed Wei Qian's assistance, so she hadn't been staying in the manor. Jun Huang didn't know what exactly Wei Qian was doing, and she didn't particularly care. She was happy with not being watched by Wei Qian.
It doesn't mean that I've lost Qi Chen's trust if I move out, she thought to herself. On the contrary, I will have more freedom to do what I have to do. I won't be restrained like I am now. And I won't be seen by Qi Chen's spy if I meet up with someone.
Moving out seemed more and more like a necessity, rather than a question of practicality.
Having made up her mind, Jun Huang shot up to her feet and walked outside after casually dropping the teacup on the table. She was stopped by the housekeeper in the main hall. He said that Qi Chen was talking to a guest in the study, so she wasn't allowed to enter. Jun Huang could only wait for him to finish.
Not long after, the guest walked out. He was an official in the imperial court. Jun Huang recognized the face from Qi Chen and Nan Guyue's wedding, but she couldn't put a name to it. She greeted him with cupped hands, and the official returned the gesture. The housekeeper walked him out.
After that, Qi Chen walked out with Nan Guyue by his side. He was a little surprised to see Jun Huang since he and Jun Huang had just talked. Once Nan Guyue settled on the edge of the hallway floor, he asked, "Is something the matter, brother Feng?"
"Nothing important," Jun Huang said calmly. "But there is something I'd like to talk to Your Royal Highness about."
"Brother Feng should speak your mind."
"This gentleman has been thinking that I may have overstayed my welcome here. I feel guilty for the intrusion. Moreover, there are many women in the manor. As a man, it is inappropriate for me to stay here. That's why I think I should move out."
Jun Huang didn't beat around the bush and simply stated what she was here for. Qi Chen's reaction was as she had expected. "Why would brother Feng think so? Have I treated you wrongly? Or has Wei Lanying said something to you?"
Of course Qi Chen would try to convince her to change her mind. He wanted to prove that he appreciated her talent.
Jun Huang waved her hand hurriedly. "No, no. Your Royal Highness treats me very well, and you have never taken advantage of me. Nonetheless, it's inconvenient for me to continue living in the manor. It will be bad for the two consorts' reputation if the news break out."
Qi Chen turned to Nan Guyue with a frown.
It had occurred to Nan Guyue that it was inappropriate for Feng Baiyu to stay in the manor. She was now pregnant. There were many taboos during this period of time. It wasn't a good idea for another man to be sharing a roof with her.
She had kept it to herself since Jun Huang was the one who brought Qi Chen and her together. Now that Jun Huang brought up the issue herself, Nan Guyue decided to speak up for her. It would be a win-win situation.
"Since the gentleman is so considerate, Your Royal Highness should let him go," Nan Guyue said, trying to tip the scale towards her favor. "We can always invite the gentleman back when there are celebrations or matters that require his help."
Qi Chen was still a little upset. However, it was clear that Jun Huang had made up her mind. There was no use for him to try to convince her. He sighed and nodded. "As you wish, then. Does brother Feng need my help in finding a good place?"
Jun Huang waved her hand. "There's no need. This gentleman has – "
"I call you my brother. There's no need for you to be so formal. What about I tell the housekeeper to put aside some silver notes for you? Brother Feng deserves a good place to live in." Qi Chen didn't give her a chance to argue. Jun Huang acted like she felt guilty for accepting his help, but that was the opposite of what she actually thought.
If Qi Chen's willing to pay, then I shall pick a good residence. She left with the silver notes the housekeeper gave her.
In the imperial city, every patch of land cost a fortune. Moreover, Jun Huang detested designs that were too extravagant. Hence a day of searching gave her no results.
Qi Chen took the initiative to introduce some brokers to Jun Huang. She accepted readily and followed one of them to a property he handpicked for her.
Qi Chen was familiar with Jun Huang's preferences, and he had informed the broker. The man took Jun Huang to a place he thought that Jun Huang would like.
The house was located in a remote area, and it was clear that no one had lived here for a long time. Weeds had taken over the whole place, creating a eerie atmosphere. It seemed as if something was going to jump out any moment.
"This is no place for anyone sane to live," Jun Huang said bluntly. She didn't try to hide her disgust.
The man fumed in anger and retorted, "I won't stand for what the gentleman said. I picked this place according to your likes and dislikes. If not for the crown prince, I won't even offer you this option. I'm afraid the gentleman will never find a place to live in this city."
The man's words were biting, but Jun Huang would happily play tit for tat. She scoffed at the rundown front yard, "Oh? So your respect for the crown prince worth only so little?"
The man was stunned. The crown prince's honored guest looked just like any frail scholar. But it turned out that this scholar had a sharp tongue and was proficient in spotting points of attack in others' words.
He pointed at Jun Huang angrily, but he couldn't form a complete sentence. Jun Huang leveled him with a calm stare before turning around to leave, ignoring the man's tantrum.
Jun Huang felt much better after leaving the rundown house. She didn't expect people here to be so bad at their jobs.
She was in a remote area, but there were still pedestrians on the street. She followed them back to the manor and lay down on the empress chair. Qi Chen showed up unnoticed not long after.
"I have heard the complaints from the broker," Qi Chen said with a smile, walking up to her. He looked amused. "Brother Feng is still so stubborn."
Jun Huang smiled awkwardly. The man must have put all the blame on her. "I have embarrassed myself."
Qi Chen waved a hand in the air. "Don't say that, brother Feng. You're seeking a long-term residence. If you yourself do not like it, what's the point of moving out? Don't worry. Take your time and find somewhere you like. There will be a place for you in this large city."
Jun Huang grew even more awkward. "It seems that this gentleman will have to stay a little longer in the manor," she said with a sigh.
"So?" said Qi Chen. "Brother Feng is free to stay as long as you want."
After walking Qi Chen out, Jun Huang made her way back to her room. She was tired.
As she was walking, Nan Xun sneaked into the manor unnoticed.
His subordinate told him that Jun Huang was trying to find a place to live. He happened to know a house that was out for sale. From what he knew about Jun Huang, he was sure that she would like the place.
On the brink of falling asleep, Jun Huang was jerked awake by faint footsteps. She widened her eyes and only relaxed when she saw that it was Nan Xun. She sat up and frowned. This is ridiculous. How can Nan Xun sneak in so easily in broad daylight?
Nan Xun curved his lips into a wolfish smile. He sat down on a stool, supporting his head with a hand. It reminded Jun Huang of the last time Nan Xun had snuck in. Her face turned a deep red.
Nan Xun remembered that night as well. His smile widened.