In rage, Qi Chen forgot about all the advice his people had given him, telling him to be patient. The smart thing to do now was to retreat, but he couldn’t stand running away like that. The throne had been right within his reach, but it was taken away from him by Jun Huang and Nan Xun. He refused to accept that all his work had been for nothing.
He wanted to kill his way out, but Nan Xun’s soldiers were all masterful fighters. Jun Huang had also recruited a few men from the House of Heavenly Fiends to be on the safe side. There was no way for Qi Chen and his men to escape. They were forced to engage Nan Xun headon.
Nan Xun had been observing Qi Chen and came to the conclusion that he was not much better than an amateur. He wasn’t a threat to Nan Xun. Nan Xun threw his sword to Jun Huang and took Qi Chen’s attack with bare hands.
Sweat broke out of Qi Chen’s forehead. His dominant hand was getting weak, while Nan Xun’s movement remained fluid. His reserve of stamina seemed almost bottomless. Gradually, Qi Chen’s moves started to slow down.
Nan Xun seized his wrist. He struggled to break out of the iron grip, but Nan Xun’s fingers were on his pulse point. Pain shot through his body whenever he tried to exert force. His face went blue.
Nan Xun didn’t want to waste any time on Qi Chen. He huffed and kicked him in the stomach, sending him flying into a stone lamp, knocking it down. It was evident how much force Nan Xun had put into his kick.
Qi Chen’s men’s resolve had been swaying as soon as Nan Xun showed up. Seeing their leader defeated, their will crumbled. Their moment of weakness didn’t escape Jun Huang’s attention. She scoffed and declared, “Anyone who surrenders will be spared. Those who struggle will be killed on sight.”
The soldiers muttered among themselves, their gaze shifting between Qi Chen and Jun Huang.
One of them dropped his weapon, then another. Like an epidemic spreading through the troop, they threw away their weapons in submission one by one. In the end, eighty percent of the soldiers surrendered.
The seemingly unstoppable force was broken up by a few simple words. Qi Chen bared his teeth at Jun Huang and got to his feet with his subordinate’s help. His man advised him to conserve his strength and run. Nan Xun, though, had no intention of letting anyone go. He motioned at his soldiers to surround the treacherous prince.
Qi Chen was captivated and held in place at the bottom of the stairs. The emperor walked out of the palace with a eunuch’s help, his clothes unkempt and rumpled, but his presence strong and untouchable. He stared at Qi Chen coldly, his eyes tinted with disappointment.
“Please forgive this official for not coming to Your Majesty’s aid earlier,” Nan Xun said with a knee on the ground and his head lowered.
The emperor looked at him and waved a hand in the air. “The crown prince has committed treason. I hereby take away his title and sentence him to imprisonment.”
Once Qi Chen was taken away, the emperor’s gaze landed on Jun Huang, who had been quiet. He didn’t know Jun Huang well. He’d only heard Qi Chen mentioned her a few times, and he was told that she was the one Nan Xun was in love with. This was the first time they came face to face.
After a moment of silence, the emperor walked up to Nan Xun and helped him up. “You deserve to be rewarded for your successful rescue. Come with me.”
Nan Xun turned to Jun Huang and gave her a reassuring nod before following the emperor into the main palace. The remaining soldiers dispersed after their general’s departure. Jun Huang helped them clean up the mess, idly wondering what the emperor wanted to talk to Nan Xun about.
Inside the palace, the emperor got straight to the point and said, “You deserve to be rewarded for coming to my rescue today. I’ll grant you a gold-plated banner, three iron armors, several weapons, and five boxes of silk and jewelry. What do you say?”
Nan Xun knelt on the floor and said earnestly, “This official wishes for Your Majesty to take the rewards back.”
The emperor’s eyebrows shot up. “What do you mean?”
“This official wants nothing but for Your Majesty to issue a decree for marriage,” Nan Xun said seriously, meeting the emperor’s gaze.
The emperor’s smile dropped, his brows furrowed. “Ridiculous. How ridiculous. You should be thinking about strengthening yourself, not something that goes against the morals...”
“Your Majesty, marrying him has always been this official’s goal. It’s not an impulsive decision. I hope Your Majesty can grant me my wish.” Nan Xun remained dignified, his tone as steely as his presence.
Nan Xun had saved his life after all. The emperor sighed and gave in. “Fine, as you wish. Tell him to come inside.”
Jun Huang was met with Nan Xun’s soft smile when she was done with her task. She frowned. What was with him now? It took a moment for her to figure it out. She teased, “The emperor must have given you something good.”
“Naturally,” said Nan Xun. “He’s going to reward you, too. Come with me.”
Jun Huang sucked in a breath. She didn’t expect the emperor to ask for her presence as well. She stood motionless and helpless. Nan Xun chuckled and led her in.
She took a deep breath to calm herself before following after Nan Xun to the main palace. She bowed to the emperor respectfully.
Under the candlelight, the emperor was able to better see Jun Huang. He was startled by how good-looking she was. No wonder Nan Xun was so obsessed with her.
“How can this gentleman help Your Majesty?” Jun Huang looked up and asked, bothered by the way the emperor stared at her.
The emperor came to his senses and realized that he’d been staring. He cleared his throat and said. “You and Nan Xun are to be commended for your help today, but I don’t know what you need. Will you be willing to accept an arranged marriage?”
Jun Huang’s head snapped up. She panicked when she thought about who exactly the emperor would like her to marry. She had been able to turn Qi Chen down when he tried arranging a marriage for her, but the emperor was the supreme leader of the state. Once he issued the decree, there would be no way out.
“Thank you for your kind offer, Your Majesty, but this gentleman is used to being alone and wouldn’t want to be tied down.” Jun Huang’s tone was calm, but final.
The emperor looked at Nan Xun, then back at her. He realized his mistake suddenly and chuckled. “Don’t answer so fast. I haven’t made myself clear. I meant a marriage with Nan Xun. What do you think?”
Jun Huang widened her eyes and turned to Nan Xun, her ears red but her expression calm. Before she could say anything, the emperor spoke up again.
“I was going to reward Nan Xun with something material, but he turned me down out of his deep love for you. He wanted only for me to issue a decree. Even though there is no precedent for two men to get married, you two have done the state a great favor. No one’s going to say anything about a marriage I arrange...”
Jun Huang had thought the emperor was the one who made the offer, but it was a deal Nan Xun got by giving up his rewards! She was angry at Nan Xun for making the decision himself. She took a deep breath and said to the emperor with as much respect as she could, “This peasant is grateful for Your Majesty’s kindness, but as Your Majesty’s said, it’s against the mainstream values for two men to get married. I hope Your Majesty won’t do something you’ll regret. Please excuse me.”
She stormed outside. She knew her action was unwise, but she couldn’t control herself. Nan Xun apologized to the emperor on her behalf and ran after her, catching her wrist.
Jun Huang shoved him away and demanded, “What the hell are you thinking, Nan Xun?”
Nan Xun was upset being scolded before he could even say anything. His expression hardened. “I should be the one to ask you that. I’m willing to give up everything for you. Why must you push me away?”
Jun Huang scoffed. “Can you not make the decision for me? We’re nothing! What do you think you’re doing?”
“You’re too stubborn, Jun Huang. You have feelings for me. Why do you refuse to be with me? This is a great opportunity for us, and yet you turn the emperor down openly. Don’t you think that’s unreasonable of you?”
Nan Xun was provoked into saying things he’d never said by her frigid response.
Jun Huang gave him a sharp smile. “In your mind, my opinion doesn’t matter as much as your pride, does it? Please excuse me. I’m not going to stay and be an eyesore.”
She stormed away, her robe tainted with blood stains. There was a macabre beauty to the way the red contrasted with the turquoise fabric. Nan Xun let her go without a word.
The next morning, the palace had been repaired and cleaned up. The fight last night seemed like a bad dream, but everyone in the palace had witnessed the killings. The memory was burned into their mind forever.Previous Chapter Next Chapter