Nan Xun paused. His second in command must have come for something important. He ordered a servant to keep anyone from entering his study before making his way to the main hall. Once Nan Xun got out of eyeshot, the servant smiled and entered the study when no one was looking.
He picked up the letter from the desk and memorized every word. Before he could leave, he heard conversation coming from outside the room. Panic flashed through his eyes, but he was well trained. He took a deep breath and opened the window to make a silent escape.
Nan Xun opened the door and walked in as he talked to his second in command about issues within the military. His second in command told him what had happened at the training ground.
Nan Xun frowned and walked to the desk when he noticed the letter was now open.
“What’s wrong?” his second in command asked.
Nan Xun told him. The second in command looked at the open window and said, “Perhaps it was the wind.”
Nan Xun wasn’t entirely convinced, but as a man, he didn’t pay as much attention to details as women did. He nodded and gestured for his second in command to take a seat. He picked up the letter and read through it.
He knew the loving words were merely there to mask her true message, but it still made him smile. His second in command didn’t even have to think to figure out who the letter was from.
Jun Huang had been staying in Southern Mu for a while. She believed Nan Jihan could be a good partner and asked Nan Xun if he thought allying with Southern Mu would be a good idea. It’d be ideal if the two countries could conquer Eastern Wu together. They stood a better chance of winning if they fought together, and they could split their spoils and ensure a closer collaborative relationship in the future.
Nan Xun thought about it carefully rather than blindly agreeing to Jun Huang’s suggestion. He couldn’t reach a conclusion just yet, so he didn’t draft a response immediately and instead sent for Qi Yun to discuss the issue.
Both Qi Yun and Ji Bo came. Nan Xun handed Jun Huang’s letter to them. Qi Yun’s expression clouded when he read the adoring words. He looked up at Nan Xun and only put aside his jealousy when he was sure Nan Xun didn’t intend to boast.
“This gentleman thinks she made sense,” Ji Bo said. “If we are to face Eastern Wu on our own, there is no guarantee we’ll win, and we may suffer too great a casualties. Then, Southern Mu can become the oriole that catches the mantis. Things will be different if we ally ourselves with Southern Mu.”
Nan Xun and Ji Bo turned to Qi Yun. The prince had to make the final decision. If he found it inappropriate, they’d reconsider.
Qi Yun nodded without hesitation. He was still upset about Nan Xun’s relationship with Jun Huang, but he knew to look at the big picture. He wouldn’t argue needlessly when he believed the idea was a good one.
With that decided, Nan Xun wrote a letter in response. Since Jun Huang had implied that their communication might have been compromised, he ordered one of his men to personally deliver the letter.
Prince Duan’s manor was shrouded in a heavy air. Prince Duan narrowed his eyes at the servant kneeling before him, his eyes sharp and inquisitive, making the servant cower.
“Are you telling the truth?” Prince Duan demanded.
The servant nodded. “This servant wouldn’t dare lie. If Prince Nan hadn’t returned when he did, this servant would have taken the letter. However, this servant also worried about rousing troubles if I took the letter before the prince could read it. Therefore...”
“Alright, that’s enough. You’re dismissed.” Prince Duan rubbed at his forehead without another word. The servant sighed in relief and walked away.
A shadow guard walked out from the dark and asked after some deliberation, “Does Your Highness suspect him?”
Prince Duan glanced at the guard, annoyance flashing through his eyes. He kept his emotions in check since the guard was his confidante and contemplated what to do with a hand supporting his head. “Have a man follow the servant. If there’s anything unusual, don’t hesitate to take him out.”
The guard nodded silently and went off to put someone on stakeout duty.
Prince Duan stayed in the study for a long time. He thought back to the letter the servant had recited, but he had troubles figuring out what deeper meanings lay therein.
Jun Huang soon received Nan Xun’s response. She was glad that he agreed with her. She made her way to the palace after some preparations. She didn’t want to waste any time.
She’d been to the palace a few times as a woman. The guards stationed at the door secretly speculated about her identity while treating her with great care, worried that they’d offend her.
Still, she had to go through the routine checkup. She put aside her anticipation and let the guards do their jobs. After about the time for a pot of tea to brew, the guards respectfully saw her off.
She had to walk on foot after passing the first door. She got off the coach, holding her dress up. The scorching sun made her frown. The maid Nan Guyue assigned her jogged up to her and opened a paper umbrella with drawings of reeds, shielding her from the sun.
Jun Huang smiled at the maid gently. The maid felt a great sense of satisfaction. Her now master was not only good looking, but also mild-tempered. Her personable personality drew people in.
“You don’t need to do this,” Jun Huang said in a resigned tone, meeting the maid’s eyes. “I don’t like getting taken care of. This feels odd to me.”
The maid wasn’t going to budge. She frowned. “That’s nonsense. The princess ordered me to take care of you. Even if you don’t like to be served, I have to shield you from the blazing sun, or the princess will scold me. Please endure my care for a little while.”
The maid batted her eyelashes at Jun Huang, which made her smile. She knew it was how the imperial family operated. If she didn’t like it, she’d just tell Nan Guyue. There was no need to make the maid’s job difficult. She waved a hand and let the maid be.
Jun Huang was feeling a little impatient, but she wasn’t on her own now. She therefore walked at a slower pace.
Unfortunately, she ran into Consort Li in the royal garden again. She sighed inwardly, her brows furrowed. She was going to make a detour, but Consort Li spotted her.
“You’re indeed the princess’s friend,” the consort blocked her way and said mockingly. “How impolite of you to ignore me.”
Jun Huang didn’t want to get into trouble again. She was in a foreign country and had to be more careful, but she didn’t expect the consort to chase after her like a mad dog. The consort should have learned her lesson last time, but she became bolder instead.
Consort Li had noticed Nan Jihan’s feelings for Jun Huang, but she couldn’t help being reminded of her suffering when she saw Jun Huang on her own. She wasn’t going to just let Jun Huang off the hook. She wanted the young woman to suffer as she had.
“Did I not make myself clear last time?” Consort Li leveled Jun Huang with a cold stare, her voice dripping with sarcasm as she implied that Jun Huang didn’t know her manners.
Jun Huang lowered her eyes. It wouldn’t hurt for her to bow to the consort. Better that than to waste her time here. She took a deep breath and put on a smile before kneeling down and gracefully bowing to the consort. As she rose, the consort pushed her down by the shoulders, forcing her to kneel again. Her knees hit the pebbles on the ground. She felt the pain in her bones, but she gritted her teeth and stopped herself from making a sound. She looked up at the consort and asked with a frown, “What is the meaning of this?”
“I haven’t said you can get up, have I?” Consort Li chuckled. “Then you should stay on your knees.”
The maid wasn’t going to let Jun Huang be bullied. She took a step forward. “Lady Li, His Majesty is still waiting for my master. If he sees her like this, he’ll - ”
“Then I won’t let you notify him.” Consort Li made a gesture at the maids behind her, who went up to restrain Jun Huang’s maid. She struggled against their hold.
Consort Li slapped the maid hard. After that came silence. Jun Huang suffered from not only the pain in her knees, but also the scorching sun. Her vision started to blur, but she gritted her teeth and endured it.
She’d always been willful, but she failed to take her condition into consideration. She reached her limit after half an hour.
Her face was pale as a sheet. The maid tried and failed to break free, her eyes brimming with tears as she saw Jun Huang wavering. She dropped down to her knees and begged, “Lady Li, my master’s ill and can’t afford to kneel any longer. What if something happens to her? Please show her some mercy. This servant is willing to do anything in return.”
“Worthless chit, do you think you’re in any place to negotiate with me?” The consort kicked the maid in the stomach. She grimaced and bent over in pain, her face turning white.
Jun Huang frowned and looked up at the consort, her tone frigid as she said, “The Honored Consort is part of the harem, but you have no right to hurt my people.”
“Oh, I have every right to hurt not only her, but even you.” The consort approached Jun Huang and grabbed her chin, forcing her to meet the her eyes. She then let go of her with a huff.
Jun Huang had reached her limit. Both her heart and head hurt and her face turned ashen. A push from the honored consort was enough to knock her unconscious.Previous Chapter Next Chapter