Chapter 268: Aspiration

Jun Huang didn’t deem Qi Chen’s question a response. He kept on muttering, “To be honest with you, my mother and Prince Duan have always told me I’d one day become the emperor, that the throne would be mine. As time went by, I began to believe that as well. I won’t go easy on anyone who dares covet what is rightfully mine.”

“You betrayed me for a man who doesn’t deserve your loyalty and struck a fatal hit on me when success is right within my reach. I’ve doubted you before, but I foolishly decided to trust you. Feng Baiyu, I didn’t expect you to go to such distance for Qi Yun. You’ve stayed undercover for him for so long...”

Jun Huang frowned at Qi Chen’s crazed look. He seemed at the end of his sanity. She should keep her distance from him. However, she was tied to the chair and couldn’t even move, let alone run away.

Qi Chen laughed when Jun Huang finally showed signs of fear. He rose and walked up to her, leveling her with a cold stare. “Tell me, Feng Baiyu, how are Nan Xun and Qi Yun any better than I am? I’ve never treated you wrong. What did you want that I couldn’t give? Why must you betray me? Why?”

Qi Chen was unraveling. He pulled on Jun Huang’s hair, forcing her to look at him. She winced in pain. Qi Chen felt fire burn through his chest. He put his hands around her neck, wanting nothing but to strangle the life out of her.

His grip grew tighter. Jun Huang’s face began to turn blue due to the lack of oxygen. Qi Chen had lost all senses of reality. He didn’t know what he was doing. He simply reveled in seeing the pained look on her face.

Suddenly, the door was kicked open with a loud bang. Prince Duan showed up with Nan Xun and Qi Yun. Before Qi Chen could react, Nan Xun sent him flying into a pillar. He dropped to the floor wincing in pain.

Jun Huang gasped for air. The sudden flow of oxygen sent her into a coughing fit. Her face turned red and her eyes misty, painting a pitiful picture.

Nan Xun had lost the ability to think. It was Qi Yun’s prompting that woke him enough to untie Jun Huang. He put his arms tight around her as if she’d disappear any moment.

Nan Xun couldn’t get the image of Qi Chen strangling Jun Huang out of his head. He gritted his teeth at Qi Chen, who had stood up with the help of a servant and was rubbing at his waist. Nan Xun’s eyes grew sharp with murderous intent.

He gave Qi Yun a pointed look. Qi Yun got his message and took Jun Huang from Nan Xun’s embrace. He wanted Qi Chen punished for his deed as well. Nan Xun stalked toward Qi Chen with purposeful strides.

Prince Duan’s heart sank. Qi Chen had hurt what Nan Xun held most precious. No matter how hopeless Qi Chen was, he was still his son. He could punish and scold Qi Chen, but he wouldn’t let others do it. He threw his men a glance, silently telling them to stop Nan Xun.

“Qi Chen has made a mistake,” Prince Duan rushed to the general prince and hurried out. “Please don’t do anything drastic. I’ll make sure to teach him a lesson. You should check on Gentleman Feng. He doesn’t look too well.”

Nan Xun turned to him with frigid eyes. Prince Duan shuddered under his gaze, but quickly recovered and put on a caring look.

Nan Xun clenched his jaw. Jun Huang finally recovered enough to speak up, “I’m fine. I don’t want to stay here any longer. Let’s go, Nan Xun.”

The ice in his eyes melted as if what Prince Duan had seen was merely a trick of light. Prince Duan realized that they mustn’t make a move on Jun Huang as long as Nan Xun was in power. She was more important to Nan Xun than the rumors suggested.

Nan Xun reluctantly followed Jun Huang’s words and let Qi Chen off the hook. He picked her up and left without a glance back.

When they returned to his manor, Ji Bo was waiting for them, and Jun Huang had lost conscious on the way. Nan Xun didn’t dare delay her treatment. He placed her down and let Ji Bo take her pulse.

Ji Bo sighed and shook his head. “She’s in a bad state and needs to rest. If she collapses again, I can’t guarantee that she’ll be able to wake up.”

With a grave expression on his face, Nan Xun attended to Jun Huang almost fearfully. After Ji Bo had prescribed medicine for her, he saw Ji Bo out and pulled Qi Yun to the side for a private conversation.

Just like the last time, Nan Xun didn’t even try to be polite about it. “You’ve heard what Ji Bo said. Jun Huang needs to rest. I don’t care what you want or need. You better forget all about it. She’s going to stay here. I’ll keep her safe.”

Qi Yun knew he had a point. The royal doctors weren’t necessarily better than Ji Bo, and he couldn’t be sure if someone from the palace would target her. He’d never forgive himself if something happened to her again.

Nan Xun’s blunt words still hit him hard. His expression turned dark. It was difficult to watch Nan Xun took care of Jun Huang and see how she only had eyes for Nan Xun. Jealousy festered in his heart.

He was too late. The girl he knew since childhood had fallen for someone else. Of course he’d noticed her feelings for the stoic man. He just didn’t want to admit it. Now he was forced to face the music. He couldn’t play ignorant.

He laughed at himself. He was the one who knew her first, and yet she’d chosen someone else over him. 

He was going to leave when the maid staying with Jun Huang rushed outside and said Jun Huang had woken up. As Qi Yun predicted, Nan Xun was the only thing on Jun Huang’s mind. She asked for him immediately after she woke up, and Nan Xun nervously asked after her condition. She snuggled close to him, her expression so uncharacteristically soft that she seemed more like a regular woman in love than the graceful Jun Huang everyone knew her as.

She spared no attention for anyone other than Nan Xun, putting Qi Yun in an awkward position. Despite his broken heart, he was relieved that she was alright.

He realized that Nan Xun and Jun Huang would like their privacy and he was the odd one out, so he silently left the room.

When Jun Huang finally thought of Qi Yun again, he’d already left for a while. She frowned, wondering why he’d leave without saying goodbye. Nan Xun caressed her hair and explained, “He must be worried that you’d blame him for not protecting you properly, so he left without a word.”

Jun Huang paused and quickly figured out that Nan Xun wasn’t serious. She called him out on spouting nonsense with a laugh. He shrugged and took her hands with an adoring expression.

Jun Huang intertwined their hands and lay against his chest, whispering, “I couldn’t help shuddering when I thought back to that moment. I’m not as brave as people believe. I was scared when Qi Chen put his hands around my neck. I thought I’d never see you again.”

“Don’t say that. I’m not going to lose you.” He held her tight, filled with the unreasonable urge to make her part of him.

They seemed to be in a world of their own as they enjoyed the rare moment of peace. No one could get between them. 

Qi Yun had stayed outside the room at first, worried that Jun Huang might have business to discuss with him. She did end up remembering his existence, but the place he held in her heart was meager compared to Nan Xun. The person he loved had found her lifelong partner. They were never meant to be. Since he couldn’t have love, he was even more determined to gain the world.

Qi Yun swore to himself that he wouldn’t hesitate again. He’d take the throne and win everyone’s approval, including that of Jun Huang and Nan Xun.

He wasn’t as generous as he’d like to be. He couldn’t help getting jealous whenever he thought back to Jun Huang’s carefree laugh as she lay in Nan Xun’s arms. She’d never showed that side of her to anyone other than Nan Xun, and she may never do.

Nan Xun was said to be cold and know nothing about matter of the heart, but Qi Yun had seen for himself how tender Nan Xun could be. He both envied him and wished him the best. He knew what Jun Huang had been through. He wanted her to be happy more than anything.

She had found her happiness. He was merely a passerby in her life.

Once he sorted through his thoughts, he turned away and left immediately. The maids at the door didn’t stop him. They were curious about his gloomy mood, but they quickly forgot about it.

Qi Yun went back to the Court of Judicial Review and didn’t go to Jun Huang’s manor. Jun Huang needed to rest. He wasn’t going to bother her. Even though he couldn’t be her lover, he still care about her wellbeing. After all, they’d known each other for many years.

At night, he returned to the palace. After some hesitation, he went to the emperor’s chamber to greet his father. The emperor’s condition had been unstable. Sometimes he’d get better, but then collapsed again the next day. It made him worry that the emperor would die soon.

When he followed a eunuch inside, the emperor was reading a book on his bed. The emperor looked up when he heard the footsteps and put aside the book, coughing.

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