Chapter 278: Matters of the Heart

“Nothing. Do as I said first.”

Consort Li waved the maid away and returned to her residence with the help of the other maids. She ran into other consorts on the way, who mocked her after hearing the rumors. She felt humiliated and grew even more resentful of Jun Huang.

The maid hurried to the palace and took some silver taels before rushing toward Nan Jihan’s chamber. His personal eunuch happened to be free. She approached him when no one was around and tugged at his sleeve. They exchanged a knowing glance. The eunuch followed her to a hidden corner.

“What were you thinking?” the eunuch reprimanded before the maid could say anything. “I finally was able to convince His Majesty to leave the room, and yet you made a scene and wasted the opportunity. His Majesty is going to give your consort the cold treatment for some time.”

The maids obediently admitted their faults and handed the eunuch the silver with an apologetic smile. “Lady Li recognized her mistake and told me to make amends to you, gonggong. Apologies for embarrassing you. Please take this offer and forgive us.”

The eunuch weighed the silver with his hand, his expression softening. He glanced at the maid and raised an eyebrow. “Be upfront about what you want. Let’s not beat around the bush. However, I have to tell your first that I’m not going to create opportunities for your consort again anytime soon. If His Majesty realizes, he won’t forgive me.”

“Of course,” the maid said with a smile. “This servant is just here to ask who the woman is. His Majesty seems to care about her greatly. We’d like to know how we should treat her lest we offend her again.”

The eunuch stared at the maid, who masked her nervousness with a polite smile. She seemed genuine enough, but he didn’t immediately respond.

The maid spoke up again, smiling, “Please tell me, gonggong. It won’t do any harm. This servant isn’t going to tell His Majesty. Can it be that the woman is His Majesty’s new consort?”

The eunuch widened his eyes and waved his hands in denial. He looked around, only sighing in relief when he was sure no one was around. He shot the maid a glare and poked at her forehead. “What nonsense are you spouting? If His Majesty hears us, we’ll both be doomed.”

The maid got nervous. Jun Huang must be someone important. Her curiosity was piqued, and Consort Li had ordered her to find out about Jun Huang’s identity. If she failed, she’d be punished.

“I can tell you as a reminder not to clash with her again. She’s a friend of the princess and the emperor. She came from Northern Qi to seek treatment. It’s also said that she’s helped His Majesty take the throne as well. The rest I don’t know, and don’t dare to ask about.” Concerned, the eunuch added, “This is the end of it. Don’t try to get any more information from other people.”

The maid nodded agreeably. She returned to Consort Li’s residence and told the consort everything the eunuch said. The consort thought for a long moment with her narrowed eyes fixed on the screen. She remembered something from last year.

“Didn’t His Majesty go to Northern Qi last year?”

The maid nodded after a pause. “He did. His Majesty went with the princess to attend the birthday celebration of Northern Qi’s emperor.”

“If so, His Majesty must have met the woman there. Send someone to Northern Qi and ask around. She must have a weakness. Although she isn’t a consort at the moment, she enjoys His Majesty’s favor and is likely to become one in the near future. We might as well try to get some blackmail material first. Then we can use it against her and have her abide by my orders.”

Her face contorted into a horrifying scowl. The maid couldn’t help freezing and trying to make herself smaller. She gritted her teeth to contain her fear, but her face had turned pale.

Meanwhile, Jun Huang was reading book scrolls in the study. It was a peaceful life, but not a boring one. The only downside was her growing longing for Nan Xun.

What happened in the morning made her antsy. She lost track of what she was reading. In the end, she put the book aside and sat there looking into the distance.

The supplementary medicine she’d taken made her irritable. She took a deep breath and made her way to the window, looking out at the bright moon and trying to calm herself.

After a while, she finally felt better. She got back to the desk and took out the writing instrument. It took a moment for her to organized her thoughts. She dabbed the brush in the ink and started writing a letter.

After letting the ink dry, she read the letter over and folded it with a smile. The second day, she took the letter to the House of Heavenly Fiends, asking them to deliver it to Northern Qi at once.

She wrote to tell Nan Xun that she was doing well in Southern Mu, that nothing had happened and he shouldn’t be too worried. She glossed over the issue with the blood lotus, not wanting to burden him.

Nan Xun received the letter a few days later. He read it again and again, as if he couldn’t get enough of it. The guard at his side glanced at him questioningly, silently grumbling about his odd behavior.

Nan Xun felt like he’d go mad if he didn’t express his love for Jun Huang. He carefully placed her letter on the desk and smoothed a hand over it, his smile soft and eyes filled with tender feelings. Those who claimed the brave general Nan Xun had no heart wouldn’t be able to recover their jaws if they saw him now.

Love could melt a frozen heart, and it made Nan Xun’s usually steely eyes light up with adoration.

He got himself under control and thought for a long while with a brush in hand. He started a stroke on the yellowed paper, but then he was so overwhelmed with things to tell her that he felt lost.

A drop of ink landed on the paper and spread, leaving a large stain on the white, rendering the sheet of paper unusable.

“Why did Your Highness sigh?” Jo Bo said from the door. Without thinking, Nan Xun put away the paper on the desk and put on a polite smile. He shook his head without a word.

Ji Bo pretended not to notice and approached him, waving his foldable fan. He told Nan Xun his speculations about Jun Huang. It turned out that Nan Xun wasn’t the only one she was worried about. She’d sent a letter to Ji Bo to assure him as well, briefly telling him about the situation in Southern Mu.

Nan Xun listened calmly and made a few guesses of his own, which he based on her letter since he couldn’t see things for himself.

Ji Bo contemplated with a frown and sighed. He’d planned to tell Nan Xun that he didn’t think things were going as smoothly as Jun Huang claimed. Otherwise she’d be on her way back to Northern Qi already. Seeing Nan Xun’s expression, however, he realized that voicing his concerns would serve no purpose other than worrying Nan Xun.

He still believed that Jun Huang could take care of herself in Southern Mu. She was a competent woman. They should trust her.

Nan Xun had noticed Ji Bo’s conflicted look, but he played ignorant and saw the strategist off with a smile, which dropped as soon as Ji Bo was out of the door. Nan Xun was worried despite Jun Huang’s competence. He sighed. There wasn’t much he could do.

Since Jun Huang didn’t want to tell him the truths, he wasn’t going to ask. He’d do what he must do and eliminate anything that could threaten Jun Huang on his end.

The thought made him feel a little better. He started writing a letter again. He only told her to rest without worry and don’t get hasty. At the end of the letter, he added a line telling her that he’d make a move against Eastern Wu when the time is right.

With all the forces keeping an eye on him, he worried that his letter would be intercepted, so he masked his message with inconspicuous words.

His worry turned out not to be unwarranted. After he ordered a guard to deliver the letter to the House of Heavenly Fiends, the letter was intercepted by Prince Duan’s men.

Usually letters would be delivered by messengers between the two countries, but Nan Xun missed Jun Huang too much and asked for the House of Heavenly Fiends to deliver the letter through a pigeon. That was how Prince Duan was able to intercept the letter.

Prince Duan had thought it’d be about something important, but the letter was filled with nothing but sappy confessions. He scoffed. Nan Xun was blinded by passion.

“I’ve received your letter. I miss you dearly. I feel the same as you… When you return safely, we’ll spend an evening catching up… I’ll keep your wishes in my mind and honor my promise. When the time is right, I’ll give you what you want the most… Remember me.”

The shadow guard by Prince Duan’s side noticed his derisive smile and asked, “Is there anything of value?”

Prince Duan dropped the letter and huffed. “He’s too focused on romance at the moment. There’s nothing important on his mind.”

“If so, we have nothing to worry about.”

Prince Duan shook his head. “That’s not true. Although Nan Xun is unlikely to do anything, we have to keep an eye on Qi Yun. I don’t know who’s advising him now. Does his inaction indicate he’s conserving his strength, or something else? Qi Chen’s disappointed me. He stood out too much and ended up becoming the biggest target. Even with my support, he still failed. Now, he can’t even openly show up in public. I can’t say for sure what the emperor is thinking, but he is unlikely to forgive Qi Chen for storming the palace.”

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