Chapter 80: Housewarming
Nan Xun sat there for a long time. The teapot on the table was now empty, but it was too late to have someone brew him fresh tea. He gave up and went to bed.
Back at Prince Chen's Manor, Jun Huang found the place to be almost void of activity. The page boy at the gate greeted her with a shy smile. Jun Huang smiled in response and threw a glance at the inside. "Has everyone retired to their rooms?"
"Indeed," the page boy said with his eyes crinkled. "The gentleman was late to return."
Jun Huang nodded and exchanged some words with him before making her way to the side building. It was late. She decided to bid farewell to Qi Chen tomorrow before moving out of the manor.
The side building was even more empty. The birds perched on the tree took off into the air when they heard her approach and vanished into the night.
She pushed open the heavy door of the side building and was immediately faced with Wei Qian. Jun Huang startled. Trying her best to calm her heart down, she looked at Wei Qian with curious eyes. "Why are you here? Aren't you away for a mission?"
Wei Qian pursed her lips without a word. Her silence made unsettled Jun Huang. Just when Jun Huang thought that Wei Qian wouldn't answer her, she said, "I came back today. I heard the prince mentioned that the gentleman is moving out…"
"I am," said Jun Huang, her tone casual. She stepped into the building with a calm expression and sat down in the garden. She poured herself a cup of tea and took a sip.
"You have just reported back to the prince about what the imperial commissioner has achieved at the county town, haven't you?" Jun Huang said as she looked up at Wei Qian. "It's late. You should go rest."
Wei Qian lowered her eyes to look at the stone floor, unmoving and straight-backed even against the chilling winds at night. "The gentleman has decided to move out. Will you take this subordinate with you?"
Jun Huang was a little surprised. She arched an eyebrow and looked at Wei Qian's downcast eyes inquisitively. She didn't think a woman like Wei Qian would say something like this of her own accord. Was Qi Chen trying to test her through Wei Qian?
Jun Huang paused for a moment before she said with a faint smile, "Your are the prince's confidante. I believe the prince still requires your help. If you come with this gentleman, the prince will have very few people he can trust around him. Of course, if the prince agrees to let you come with this gentleman, who am I to say no?"
Her words were perfectly appropriate and within the boundaries of propriety, which was exactly the most hurtful answer she could have given. The light in Wei Qian's eyes dimmed, but her face remained impassive. She was Qi Chen's confidante after all. She would not let her own feelings be seen.
No matter how bitter and pained she felt, her face remained calm and collected. Sometimes she was similar to Jun Huang. Jun Huang did smile from time to time, though, while Wei Qian never did.
Before taking her leave, Wei Qian said in a quiet tone, "The gentleman never drank tea at night in the past. You said yourself that it was bad for health. If so, the gentleman should take care of yourself better. Now please excuse this subordinate." With that, she went into her room, leaving Jun Huang alone in the backyard.
Jun Huang looked at the teacup in her hand. Her chest had been hurting a little earlier. It might have been caused by the poison again. That was why she drank tea to suppress the pain. She hadn't thought too much about her actions.
Wei Qian was right though. Jun Huang sighed and put down the teacup before going into her bedroom.
The next day Jun Huang woke up at the crack of dawn. She quickly packed her things and freshened up before going to Qi Chen's building. She happened to run into Qi Chen when he was leaving for the court meeting.
"Brother Feng woke up early," Qi Chen said as he smoothed out his sleeves. "I heard the servants say that you returned quite late last night. Why didn't you sleep a little longer?"
Jun Huang's eyes flashed. Why has Qi Chen been keeping such a close eye on my whereabout? Could it be that Nan Xun was right? Did Qi Chen sent those men to test me?
Jun Huang was too immersed in her thoughts to answer. Qi Chen frowned and waved a hand before her eyes. He gave her a bright smile. "Brother Feng is clearly distracted. Did you meet a beautiful woman last night?"
Jun Huang quickly regained her focus, but she didn't know what she should say about what had happened yesterday. "The house is ready, Your Royal Highness," she said with a smile. "This gentleman has stayed in this manor for a long time. I'm too ashamed to stay any longer. I therefore came to bid farewell to Your Royal Highness."
Qi Chen looked surprised. "Why is brother Feng so eager to move out? Have I made you feel unwelcome?"
"That's not it," said Jun Huang. "It's just that there are things I have to buy for the new place. This gentleman thinks that I might as well move into the house now. Then I'll know what I need."
Qi Chen was about to say something else when the page boy in charge of preparing the coach came. He reminded Qi Chen that he had to leave for the palace now, or he would be late to the meeting.
Qi Chen had no choice but to cut the conversation short. He told Jun Huang to take care of herself and tell him if she ran into any troubles. Jun Huang nodded in response. Only then did he take his leave.
After seeing Qi Chen off, Jun Huang returned to the side building for her things. Wei Qian was right at the door when she left her room. She nodded as a way of greeting. Wei Qian watched her leave, as silent and still as a statue.
Some people were never meant to be in the same world. Wei Qian knew that she and Feng Baiyu, who was known for his calm attitude and distant smile, could never be together. She didn't dare to compare herself to Princess Wan'er. She could only keep her feelings to herself. It was a secret she would bring to her grave.
Outside the manor, the sun was blindingly bright. Jun Huang shielded her eyes with a hand. There were only a handful of people on the street. She wrapped her clothes tighter around herself and went to her new house.
The first thing she saw when she entered was the fallen leaves covering the ground. It looked a little bleak. On the fake mountain in the garden stood a sparrow. It flew away when it spotted her.
Jun Huang put her luggage on the stone table in the garden. Looking around, she let out a soundless sigh. She picked up a broom and started sweeping the fallen leaves in the pavilion.
When she was finished, her entire body was covered in sweat. She took a deep breath before making her way to the south wing with her luggage. For her, the quiet south wing was the perfect place to live in. Moreover, the wall at the back was taller. That would stop Nan Xun from going in and out freely like he had done when she was in Prince Chen Manor.
She arrived at the south wing and opened the door. It looked identical to the west wing. However, it seemed that the room had rarely been used before. It wasn't as well-equipped. She couldn't just move the furniture from other rooms here though. She would have to buy the furniture that was missing here.
She made a mental list before leaving the house. She was generous with her money and didn't try to haggle with the vendors. She asked two bulky men to deliver the items to the house for her. She gave them some silver and started moving the items inside the room.
She placed the items where they should be. She had bought a silk emerald screen painted with mountains and rivers, a delicate bedside lamp, a light color silk curtain, a tea set, and other various things, including something big like a bookshelf, to something small like plants for the garden. She even paid someone to change the water in the lake and put a few koi fish inside. And she replaced the wilted plants with ones she bought.
It took half a day for her to finish setting up the garden. She entered the room, put the silk curtain on the bed, and replaced the blanket. Only then did she take a seat at the sandalwood desk and rest. She waved her foldable fan as she looked at the room she had made so much efforts in decorating. She felt an indescribable sense of achievement.
Someone knocked on the door. She frowned. She had announced that she would be celebrating her move today, but she didn't think anyone would come so early. She walked out of the south wing to get the door.
Once at the front gate, she opened the red brown wooden doors. Nan Xun stood before her with a small smile. Behind him were a few people who dressed like servants.
Jun Huang pointed at them. "Who are they?"
Nan Xun threw a glance back and quirked his lips. "You must need servants in your manor. I bought some for you earlier in the morning."
Jun Huang knew that couldn't be the truth. Nan Xun must have picked the ones he trusted among the people in his own manor. She nodded and didn't question him.
Nan Xun ordered a few men to move the items he brought into the house. Then he led some of the women inside with Jun Huang. They sat down in the garden. "Pick one as your personal maid. I assure you that they can all be trusted."
Jun Huang nodded before giving each of them a good look. Her gaze settled on a young girl who looked to be at the age of fifteen or sixteen. The girl seemed like the honest sort. Jun Huang smiled and pointed at her. "I'll have her." Jun Huang turned to the girl. "What's your name?"
"I don't have a name," the girl said quietly with her eyes on the ground. "May the gentleman give one to me?"
Jun Huang supported her chin with a hand and started brainstorming. None of the names she came up with seemed right. She might as well call the girl something easy to remember. "You look young. I'll call you Little Girl."
"Understood," said Little Girl with her head bowed.
The "name" amused Nan Xun. He almost laughed. It was rare for Jun Huang to smile so genuinely. He was glad as long as she was happy.
Jun Huang ordered the rest of the maids to make preparation for the banquet at noon. Then she ordered Little Girl to boil her some hot water for brewing tea. They accepted the orders and left, leaving only Jun Huang and Nan Xun in the garden.
Jun Huang looked at the various flowers with a calm expression. She looked right at home in a place like this. Nan Xun watched her and didn't say anything.
Not long after, the page boy who was told to watch the door led Qi Yun in. Qi Yun was surprised to see Nan Xun. He thought that he would be the first one to arrive. He didn't expect Nan Xun to be here already.
"I didn't expect brother Nan to come so early," Qi Yun said in an indiscernible tone.
Nan Xun only gave Qi Yun a nod. No one knew if he did it on purpose. Qi Yun felt a little embarrassed. Jun Huang stepped in and invited Qi Yun to take a seat.
Qi Yun looked around at the classy design. He found the place to be comfortable. Curious, he insisted on having Jun Huang give him a tour.
Jun Huang knew that giving tours to her friends would be part of the celebration. She got to her feet, intending to take Qi Yun around. Nan Xun, however, didn't seem eager to follow them. Jun Huang couldn't stop herself from frowning. "Aren't you coming with us?"