After what happened, the servants had come to the realization that Nan Xun despised the woman. They nodded without hesitation.
As soon as Qi Yun and Jun Huang arrived at the palace, he heard that the emperor was asking for him. He thought for a moment and concluded that he should introduce Jun Huang to the emperor. It was both for his selfish desire and to avoid potential troubles.
He explained his reasons to Jun Huang. She nodded in agreement and followed him to the emperor’s chamber. Both of them held themselves with grace and dignity. Jun Huang especially attracted many servants’ attention. They marveled at the existence of such a stunning woman.
She remained silent as they walked. Her dress waved slightly in the air as she took light and graceful steps. Qi Yun snuck glances at her every once in a while. The setting sun shone on her aloof face. His heartbeats quickened. He looked away with his face flushed.
A eunuch hurried inside the chamber to notify the emperor when they arrived. He then motioned at them to enter.
The emperor was surprised when he saw Jun Huang. It was the first time Qi Yun brought a woman to see him.
After greeting the emperor, Qi Yun explained that he’d set his eyes on Jun Huang outside the palace and decided to take her here.
The emperor gave Jun Huang a once-over and didn’t say anything. It wasn’t unusual for a member of the royal family to have a few lovers. Jun Huang was beautiful. He didn’t pay her undue attention and went back to talking to Qi Yun.
Jun Huang quietly considered the emperor. The last time she saw him was after Qi Chen stormed the palace. She hadn’t gotten a close look at him then. Before that it was Wan’er’s wedding. The emperor had looked hale and hearty at the time, and now he looked significantly older, his air lined with strands of silver. She felt a little guilty, but she quickly suppressed the feeling.
She’d done what she had to for her revenge. She may feel pity for the man, but she’d make the same decision again and again for her goal.
After Qi Yun finished talking to the emperor, he led Jun Huang back to his residence and let her stay in the side room. He summoned the maids and servants and ordered them to treat her the way they treated him. Even when he wasn’t in the palace, they must not disrespect her.
Jun Huang smiled in response and got settled.
Nan Xun couldn’t stop thinking about Jun Huang. He wasn’t too worried that something would happen to her. He simply wanted to see her. When he returned to the manor after work, he realized how cold and empty the place looked without her. He couldn’t stand it. After only a couple days, he sent a message to Jun Huang, saying that he’d like to meet her.
Jun Huang couldn’t suppress her smile when she received the letter, softening her brows and eyes. Once night fell, she would make her way to the river outside the Cold Palace.
She didn’t tell Qi Yun. It wasn’t necessary, and she was sure that if Qi Yun knew, he’d either stop her from leaving, or he’d go with her. She didn’t want a third wheel.
When it was dark, and Qi Yun had gone to the study to take care of paperwork, Jun Huang dismissed the maids and changed into a set of dark-colored clothes. She sneakily made her way to behind the Cold Palace.
Although she’d moved into the palace, she had to be careful not to let anyone see her breaking the rules. People would talk if she was spotted going out at night.
When she reached the river behind the Cold Palace, Nan Xun had been waiting for her for a while. He stood in a shadow watching Jun Huang search for him. He smiled and pulled her into his arms from her blindspot.
Jun Huang froze but quickly relaxed when she heard Nan Xun’s voice. She chuckled and patted him on the arm. “Let me go first.”
Nan Xun let go and took a step back, his crinkling eyes fixed on her. Under the moonlight, his feelings seemed to overflow from his expression.
Jun Huang had always been bolder than the average women. Since she’d admitted her feelings to Nan Xun, she wasn’t going to hold herself back. She held onto his sleeve and wouldn’t let go.
Nan Xun looked down at her and chuckled, ruffling her hair. He sighed. “I let you enter the palace for your safety, but I can barely take the separation. I wanted to visit you the first day we parted and only managed to stop myself with great difficulties. How about you?”
Jun Huang blinked at him and laughed. “You should listen to yourself,” she said teasingly. “People are going to call you a lustful man.”
Nan Xun didn’t find any shame in that. He took her hand and pulled her toward him. She lost her balance and fell into his embrace. He tightened his arms around her.
He only let go after a good while, his eyes fixed on her, bright like the stars.
Jun Huang’s heart skipped a beat. She threw proper etiquette out of the window and hugged him, burying her face into his shirt. “I miss you too,” she whispered.
They stared at each other, seeing only the other in their eyes. They didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. They simply wanted to make their feelings clear.
Nan Xun led Jun Huang away from the Cold Palace. She followed him without a word. The Cold Palace was nearly empty even in the morning. Now, at night, there wasn’t anyone outside. They could therefore freely walk around here.
The moon cast the bluestone path in a silver glow. The couple walked side by side. There was a faint flowery fragrance in the air.
“I don’t know what Eastern Wu has been doing, but they won’t make a drastic move anytime soon,” said Nan Xun. “You’ve met the emperor yourself. You know his condition. We have a lot of things to take care of lately, but all in all, things are going well.”
Jun Huang nodded. “You’re right.”
They strolled along the path at deliberate pace, exchanging a few words every once in a while. It felt so peaceful, Nan Xun wanted the moment to stretch and never end. He was willing to abandon everything and followed Jun Huang to a secluded mountain, living in the nature without mundane disturbance. He knew, however, that Jun Huang was the one who wouldn’t be able to let go despite her resemblance to a celestial being.
She cared too much about the world.
He’d never let that bother him until now. The thought sat on his mind like a physical weight. He couldn’t not say anything.
Jun Huang noticed his troubled look. She waited for him to tell her what he was thinking. She stopped when he came to a halt, moonlight illuminating him from behind, obscuring his face.
“Have you thought about what kind of life you’d like to lead after getting revenge, Jun Huang?” he asked nervously.
Jun Huang paused and gave the question some consideration. In the end, she sighed and looked up at the bright moon, shaking her head. “Who knows? That’s not going to happen anytime soon. Whatever I dream about may never come true. It’s better that I live at the moment.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to dream a little,” Nan Xun said with a quiet laugh. He reached out to ruffle her hair like he’d done it a thousand times.
They let themselves drown in the intimacy, unaware that someone had been watching them from afar.
Qi Chen twisted and turned on the bed. He couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful woman he saw at Nan Xun’s manor. He was reminded of how proud his mother had been. His temples throbbed painfully.
He gave up on falling asleep and got off the bed. He heard conversation coming from the outside. Curious, he snuck his way to the door and opened it slightly, listening with rapt attention.
“This subordinate noticed that the honored consort had seemed a little ill since this morning,” said the man Prince Duan planted in the palace. “I hadn’t thought too much of it, but she got worse. The consort then told a maid that she wasn’t feeling well, but the maid treated people according to their status. The consort naturally didn’t get any sympathy from her. After getting insulted by the maid, the consort turned a shade paler.”
“This subordinate waited until no one was around to ask the consort what was wrong, but she insisted that she was alright and told me not to tell anyone...”
Prince Duan’s forehead creased as he contemplated what was going on. Qi Chen, however, couldn’t stand just listening. He opened the door, startling the two men outside.
Prince Duan scowled at him and snapped, “Where’s your manner? Since when have you learned to eavesdrop?”
Qi Chen ignored his words and threw him a glare, scoffing. “Right, you care only about power and nothing else. You must be thinking that mother’s merely pretending to be sick, aren’t you? Have you forgotten who it was that promised to keep her safe? She’s now trapped in that prison of a palace, and yet you’ve done nothing!”
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