Qi Chen’s remark hit home for Prince Duan. Mortification flashed through his face before it gave way to grave seriousness. He glanced at Qi Chen and said to the guard, “Go back to keeping an eye on the consort. If anything goes wrong, you’ll be held accountable.”
“Understood.” The guard left without another word.
“Why don’t you learn?” Prince Duan sighed and tried talking some sense into Qi Chen. “I told you there wasn’t much we could do at this moment.”
Qi Chen knew he’d overreacted again. He stared at the floor silently without a word. After a long period of silence, Prince Duan said that he’d take Qi Chen to see the consort after he put on some disguise.
Qi Chen wasn’t going to argue with that. He followed Prince Duan’s instruction and changed his look before following him to the palace.
The consort didn’t expect to see them here. Tears streamed down her face against her will. She paid it no mind. Pushing her discomfort from the cold she caught aside, she sat up to look at them closely.
Qi Chen couldn’t bear seeing her like this. He knew his mother had a lot to talk about with Prince Duan anyway. He made an excuse and walked out of the Cold Palace.
He heard a laugh as bright as a bell chime. At the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the tail of a dress at the other side of the wall. He hid and took a peek.
He widened his eyes when he saw that it was the woman he’d caught glimpses of some time ago. His gaze then shifted to Nan Xun. His face fell.
He felt a pang of jealousy when he saw their intertwined hands. He wanted to be part of the peaceful picture they painted. He wanted to be in Nan Xun’s place.
He stared at the woman, greedily taking in the way moonlight shone on her. Nan Xun must have been transfixed by her to not notice his presence. He fumed. He knew he’d been captivated by the woman the moment he saw her. The snippets of memory were enough to make him lose sleep. He just hadn’t realized it until now.
He wanted to take her away from Nan Xun and had her accompany him for the remainder of his life. He didn’t care whose side the woman was on. He didn’t care if she’d fought him with Nan Xun.
As Qi Chen thought, Nan Xun’s attention was solely on Jun Huang. He hadn’t noticed that someone was looking at her with desires. If he’d known, he’d have hidden her away.
They came up to an osmanthus tree, the fragrance of its blossoms filling the air. Jun Huang was captivated, reluctant to leave. Nan Xun looked at her with a smile.
Breeze brought a few white flowers to the top of her hair. Nan Xun took them off and chuckled. “Even if you like osmanthus cake, you don’t have to look at a tree to quell your hunger.”
Jun Huang knew he was just teasing. She gave him a mock glare the way a woman would to show intimacy. Nan Xun felt electric shoot through his heart. There was nothing he wanted more than to hold her.
He followed his feelings and pulled her close, whispering, “Your absence unsettled me.”
Touched, Jun Huang curved her lips into a smile and took Nan Xun’s hand, her eyes bright with emotions. She didn’t say a word, but her gesture was eloquent enough.
Jun Huang looked up at the sky. It was about time that she returned to her room. It’d be unwise of them to stay here. “It’s getting late. You should go now. You must have things to take care of tomorrow morning, and I can’t stay out for too long.”
Nan Xun recovered his senses and agreed. “It is time for your to rest. I’ve forgotten about everything other than you in my joy of seeing you. I’ll walk you back.”
Jun Huang waved him away. “We’ll see each other again. There’s no reasons for us to be reluctant to part. This is only temporary. I’ll see you around.”
“Alright.” Nan Xun didn’t want to just let her go, but it’d be unreasonable of him to argue with her for this. After she disappeared from his view, he left through the river behind the Cold Palace.
In other people’s eyes, Qi Yun was a loyal son who’d been attending to the emperor since he fell ill. He was more attentive than even the eunuchs. He often read reports to the emperor out of consideration for his father’s health.
Jun Huang had retired late last night. She was still asleep when morning came. Qi Yun didn’t wake her up. It wasn’t until about nine that she rose from her bed.
Qi Yun had been waiting for her. He rushed to her as soon as she was out of the door. Jun Huang blinked hazily at him. “What’s wrong? Why are you here so early?”
“I forgot to tell you last night that Royal Father told me to take you with me this morning,” Qi Yun said with a smile. He’d been worried when the emperor first asked to see Jun Huang, but his worry gave way to delight once he realized what the emperor was thinking.
The emperor must have considered Jun Huang a potential spouse for Qi Yun. His father wanted to make sure that she didn’t only have Qi Yun’s affection, but was also worthy of the emperor’s approval.
Of course, Qi Yun wasn’t going to tell Jun Huang that.
Jun Huang was puzzled, but she didn’t hesitate too much before nodding in agreement. She got changed and followed Qi Yun to the emperor’s chamber after breakfast.
The emperor was still asleep when they arrived. They waited outside for about an hour before a eunuch told them to enter.
The emperor slumped on the bed. Jun Huang and Qi Yun bowed to him respectfully. He motioned at them to be at ease and exchanged some pleasantries with Jun Huang.
A eunuch brought a report in. Qi Yun took it and read it out loud for the emperor.
Jun Huang watched the father and son with mixed feelings. She sighed, wondering how she should feel about their relationship.
The emperor’s health was deteriorating, but he insisted on taking care of court affairs himself. Every once in a while he’d ask Qi Yun to read reports with him and ask his son a few questions, which Qi Yun answered to the emperor’s satisfaction. It was clear that the emperor was raising his son to be the new crown prince.
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