Chapter 82: Promise
Jun Huang nodded with a smile. "I'll be sure to attend the celebration in person. I didn't seek you out for help this time because of the circumstances we're in. I'd like to make amends to you."
Her explanation didn't make him feel particularly happy, but the fact that Jun Huang was willing to show up was enough to brighten his mood. He put aside his negative feelings.
Nan Xun, however, frowned deeply. He looked at Jun Huang with disapproval in his eyes. Jun Huang knew what he was thinking. She, however, had promised Qi Yun. She would not break that promise.
Qi Yun was a rational person. Once his excitement faded, he looked at Jun Huang pensively and said, "Your true… you don't want too many people to know about your existence, do you? That's why you want to be nothing but a strategist. If you go to the celebration, you may be noticed by people with ulterior motives. They may try to find out more about you."
Qi Yun kept his words ambiguous because he didn't know that Nan Xun already knew about Jun Huang's identity. He thought that Nan Xun was protective of her only because he considered Jun Huang a friend. Besides, Jun Huang was a great asset. Many were trying to win her support. Even though Nan Xun did not interfere with matters of the court, he might still want to befriend one or two strategists.
Nan Xun could tell what Qi Yun was trying to do. He snorted and didn't correct Qi Yun's misunderstanding. He continued to drink. Hard liquor was potent, but it wasn't easy to get drunk on. The mild Nu'er hong, on the other hand, could get one drunk in no time.
Jun Huang shook her head and remained silent. She didn't know what she was going to do. She would have to cross the bridge when she got to it. She was known as Qi Chen's strategist for the time being. Perhaps she would have to use Qi Chen as her cover.
Little Girl finally decided to step in when the three of them were close to getting drunk. She walked up to them and said gently, "Please stop drinking, gentlemen. The sun has not set yet. You shouldn't drink too much. If the gentlemen still crave alcohol, you should drink in your own manor at night."
Jun Huang looked back at Little Girl, then at her own wine cup. It was empty. Qi Yun shook the wine jug and found it empty as well. They smiled awkwardly. To think that one day they would be scolded by someone so young.
Nan Xun put down his cup. He had high tolerance for alcohol and therefore didn't appear to be drunk at all. Qi Yun, on the other hand, didn't dare to drink in the palace without any special occasions. He almost never drank except for the small amount of wine he had occasionally when he met up with friends. He was now totally drunk, his face flushed and his eyes unfocused.
Jun Huang sighed. If she wanted Qi Yun to leave a good impression on the emperor, she must not let him go back to the palace in this state. She wondered what she should do. Should she prepare a room for him? He could leave after he was sober.
"Prepare the room in the east wing, Little Girl. Later – "
"There's no need for that," Nan Xun cut her off. "I'll take him back to my manor. You still have a lot to do since you've just moved in. Besides, it's inappropriate for a drunk man to stay at your place."
Jun Huang blinked. She coughed and ordered Little Girl to prepare a coach. Little Girl nodded before walking out. There were now only the relatively sober Jun Huang and Nan Xun accompanying Qi Yun, who was so drunk he could barely sit up straight.
"Huang'er… I'm here for you. Don't… Don't be scared…" Qi Yun said in his dream, his entire body slumping over a table. Jun Huang and Nan Xun both heard his words clearly.
Jun Huang only frowned for a brief moment, while Nan Xun's eyes went dark as he scowled. Jun Huang didn't think too much of it. In her mind, Qi Yun was her friend and the person who had been supportive of her.
She realized belatedly that Nan Xun didn't seem happy. "What happened?" she asked. "Do you feel unwell?"
Nan Xun shook his head and looked out of the window. "The poison in your body hasn't been cleansed," he said nonchalantly. "Alcohol is bad for you. I know it's a special occasion today, so you had a little more to drink. Remember to have a bowl of medicine later. Don't let the poison spread freely."
Jun Huang chuckled as she smoothed a hand over her sleeves. "You shouldn't be too worried. I know what I'm doing. I know my limits."
He wanted to make sure Jun Huang would take care of herself, but her reaction made it difficult for him to argue further. Little Girl walked in at that moment and said that the coach was ready.
Jun Huang was just about to have someone help Qi Yun up when Qi Yun gradually came to. His eyes regained focus and he rubbed at his throbbing forehead. "Sorry. I fell asleep."
"It's fine," said Jun Huang. "You might have to sober up in Nan Xun's manor before you return to the palace."
Qi Yun was already half sober after the brief rest. He frowned and waved a hand in the air as he propped himself up against the table. "That won't be necessary. Living in the palace has its restrictions. Royal Father often asks for me these days. I should return before it's too late. I'm only here to offer my blessings. With that done, I'll take my leave."
Jun Huang lowered her eyes. He was right. Living in the palace could be restrictive. Moreover, Qi Yun had been visiting the emperor often the past couple of days. The emperor kept him in his mind and asked after Qi Yun from time to time. Qi Yun shouldn't stay out for too long.
She nodded. "If so, leave after having some tea. It may help you clear your head." She led Nan Xun and Qi Yun to the central garden. The tea brewed by the servant was still steaming with heat.
Qi Yun shared Jun Huang's passion for tea. He drank some whenever he had the time. Once he heard that this tea was a gift from Qi Chen, he was even more eager to have a taste. He followed Jun Huang to the garden and sat down on the stone stool. He poured himself a cup, savouring the rich fragrance.
Jun Huang shook her head with a smile as she sat down next to Nan Xun. She poured Nan Xun a cup before filling her own cup and having a taste.
Qi Chen wasn't a tea lover himself. In order to show that Jun Huang was a valuable asset to him, however, he had ordered people to find him various premium brands of tea as gifts to Jun Huang. Jun Huang accepted readily and always enjoyed the tea to its fullest.
Breezes swept through the garden. Jun Huang's head had been hurting. Now, after having some tea and fresh air, she felt much better.
Qi Yun sobered up as well. Once he finished his tea, he put down the cup and put his hands together in salute. "The gentleman must have other matters to attend to. I will bother you no further and take my leave."
Jun Huang nodded and got to her feet. "I'll walk you out."
The three of them went outside together. They exchanged a few more words at the gate. Jun Huang told Qi Yun to be patient. He shouldn't think about reaching for the stars just yet. The emperor was starting to see his strengths now. He must not be hasty. Otherwise, he might damage his image in the emperor's heart.
Qi Yun nodded in agreement. He threw a glance at Nan Xun. Isn't he going to leave as well? He saluted them before sauntering outside.
At the distance, a sedan chair was being carried this way.
"It seems to be someone from the palace," said Nan Xun.
Jun Huang tilted her head to give him a look before turning to the sedan chair. It was coming her way. She raised an eyebrow. Who else in the palace did she know?
She still hadn't figured out an answer when the sedan chair was placed down outside the gate. A maid dressed in turquoise dress parted the curtain and out came a young woman. Jun Huang felt her eyes twitch. Seriously?
Wan'er looked up at Jun Huang, her lips curved into a smile. She was holding a delicate box in her hands. She could have told a servant to carry it for her, but she wasn't willing to let anyone lay a hand on it. She insisted on carrying it herself.
"Well met, gentleman Feng. Brother Nan." Wan'er walked up the stairs and stopped before Jun Huang and Nan Xun.
Jun Huang quickly pushed her feelings aside and cupped her hands in greeting. "This peasant is honored to meet the princess again. I didn't prepare for your visit since I didn't know beforehand you'd come. I hope you'll forgive me."
"Don't say that, gentleman Feng," Wan'er said with her eyes downcast, but she couldn't help sneaking glances at Jun Huang. "It is I who have intruded upon you. Why would I blame you?"
Today Jun Huang wore a plain robe with her dark hair tied loosely with a silver band and held up with a purple gold cap. She didn't wear any accessories other than the white jade pendant on her waist. Her delicate features made her look like a young man walking right out of a painting. Every movement of hers was elegant.
Wan'er was transfixed by her and forgot to look away. Jun Huang could feel her gaze, but she only gave her a polite smile with her face half-turned.
Nan Xun quirked his lips as he observed the interaction between them. It was inappropriate for them to stand outside the gate. "Let's go inside first."
Wan'er was brought back to reality by his voice. Realizing that she had embarrassed herself, she felt her face flare up. Jun Huang gestured at her to enter the compound. She then asked the page boy watching the door to help lead Wan'er's servants to a place where they could rest.
Inside the garden, Wan'er took a good look at the elegant architecture, her eyes filled with awe. "I rarely leave the palace. Most of the time I go to second brother's manor. I didn't know that there is another place of such high class in the imperial city. Only a place like this can match gentleman's Feng's worth."
"The princess is too kind. May I ask how the princess knows that this gentleman has moved out?" Jun Huang asked the question in a casual tone, but there was an undercurrent of emotions in her eyes. Is it Qi Chen who told her? If so, what is he trying to do?
Wan'er turned to Jun Huang. "Wan'er visited second brother's manor early in the morning. I didn't see my brother, but I did see my pregnant sister-in-law. She told me that gentleman Feng has moved out of Prince Chen Manor and gave me the directions." She lowered her eyes.
Jun Huang nodded without another word. She gave Wan'er a tour with Nan Xun at their sides. Once they reached the lake outside the south wing, Wan'er suddenly realized that she was still holding the box in her hands. She handed it to Jun Huang after some hesitation.
Jun Huang took the box. There were dark patterns carved into the surface. Inside was a sachet embroidered with two butterflies. She could smell the fragrance of sandalwood.
Jun Huang was generous with her praises. "I didn't expect the princess to have such skillful hands."
"I'm glad the gentleman likes it," Wan'er said shyly in a quiet voice.
Jun Huang's tone took a downturn and she wielded her words like a weapon. "However, the gift should be given to the right person. It's a waste for the princess to give it to this gentleman."