The third young mistress led Jun Huang away. Jun Huang was befuddled by her enthusiasm, but quickly realized what was going on when she was led to a young man.
She knew the third young mistress had a fiance. Jun Huang was just here so that the young mistress could spend time with him.
The third young mistress introduced them and chatted giddily with her fiance, her cheeks flushed. Jun Huang quietly sat by their sides. She seemed untouchable and detached from the hubbub of noises around her. It was difficult to now be drawn to her.
The young man stared at Jun Huang, ignoring his future wife. “Have you found a husband yet?” he asked.
The third young mistress huffed when she caught him staring. Jun Huang’s aloof expression did nothing to quell her growing resentment.
“Why?” asked the third young mistress, barely containing her fury. “Have you set your eyes on my sister?”
“Third sister misunderstood,” Jun Huang spoke up. “Brother-in-law obviously loves you. I won’t be a bother to you. Please excuse me.”
She rose and walked away.
Perhaps she isn’t so bad, thought the third young mistress, but then she noticed that her fiance was still staring at Jun Huang. She shot to her feet and snapped at him before storming away.
Her fiance was a scion from an important family. He didn’t care if the third young mistress was angry. He huffed and left her go.
Jun Huang took a stroll outside, bored. She didn’t like how the man had looked at her. She couldn’t help thinking of Nan Xun.
“My lady, the mistress is leaving for the manor,” her maid came up to her and said. “Are you going with her?”
Jun Huang nodded and followed her to the coach parked outside. The mistress helped her in and asked, “Have you met anyone you like? I can make arrangements for you.”
“Mother is very kind, but there’s no such person,” admitted Jun Huang.
The other young mistresses had arrived at the manor at about the same time. Jun Huang had planned to return straight to her residence, but she was stopped by the third young mistress.
Before she could say anything, the third young mistress pointed at her and shouted, “Shameless girl! How dare you do that to me?! I introduced you to the other guests out of kindness, and yet you openly seduced my fiance!”
“That’s right. Do you even know any shame?!” The second young mistress had always disliked Jun Huang. She grew even more resentful of her hearing her sister’s story.
Jun Huang scoffed. She might be naturally calm, but no one would be happy being subjected to such insults. She suppressed her anger since the mistress was here and put on a smile. “You’ve misunderstood, sisters. I haven’t done anything of that sorts.”
“You dare talk back?!” snapped the third young mistress. “I wouldn’t have fought with him if not for you! I was just introducing you! Who knows you’d stoop so low as to try stealing my husband?!”
She’d gotten so obsessed that she refused to listen to reason. She raised her hand to slap Jun Huang.
The mistress had been silent, but she caught her daughter’s hand and slapped her, stunning everyone, especially the third young mistress and Jun Huang.
Jun Huang didn’t expect the mistress to go that far for her, and the young mistress couldn’t believe her mother would hit her for an outsider. She covered her face and sobbed. “Mother, she’s not part of - ”
“Shut up!” the mistress snapped, her voice calm but steely. “Have you not done enough to embarrass yourself? Go back to your room and don’t come out without my permission.”
The third young mistress didn’t dare talk back at her mother despite her ire. She stormed away without a word.
The other girls shot Jun Huang a venomous glare and left as well. Jun Huang frowned. She didn’t expect things to go this way.
“You must be tired, child. Go back and rest.” The mistress patted Jun Huang’s shoulder, her scowl replaced by a faint, comforting smile.
Jun Huang masked her emotions and made an assenting noise with her eyes lowered. She turned to leave, but realized that she shouldn’t walk away without saying anything. After some deliberation, she said, “Don’t be too concerned, mother. I have nothing to do with that man, and I don’t want anything to do with him. Third sister lost her calm because she loves that man too much. I’m not too bothered by what she said. Mother shouldn’t be too angry.”
The mistress smiled and gave her an apologetic look. After seeing Jun Huang off, she made her way to the back of the manor to deal with what had happened.
Jun Huang noted the flash of guilt in the woman’s eyes. It made her even more curious about her identity.
Her being the princess of Western Que should be a secret. Those in the manor couldn’t have known. Even if they did, they shouldn’t be treating her with such care. What else was she apart from the princess of Western Que?
She was getting a headache trying to figure out an answer. She sighed and rubbed at her temple, returning to her room to rest.
Nan Xun hadn’t found anything useful so far. Whoever was behind Jun Hao’s kidnapping had been cautious. It’d take time for him to track them down.
He decided to take a short break at a teahouse. He’d bring some tea for Jun Huang if it was good.
His peace was disturbed by a commotion outside the door. He frowned in annoyance.
Tea was meant to be savored in quiet. He’d intentionally picked the most high class teahouse in the city. And yet it was as chaotic as any regular establishments were. His mood was thoroughly ruined.
He wasn’t so unreasonable that he’d blame the shop for that, but the group of men sat down close enough that he couldn’t escape their conversation.
“You don’t know how beautiful the daughter of the Grand Chancellor is,” said the fiance of the third young mistress. He was a playboy who knew many beautiful women intimately. People called him Gentleman Li. “A smile from her can captivate the soul.”
“Are you talking about the young mistress who’s only entered the public sphere recently?” asked another man.
Gentleman Li nodded and laughed without restraint. “I saw her during the banquet a few days ago. A glance was enough for me to be drawn. I thought our paths would never pass, but then she came up to me.”
“You aren’t going to fool us! Everyone knows the mistress is protective of her daughter. She wouldn’t have let you go after her. Besides, aren’t you the third young mistress’s fiance? Are you going to marry the mysterious lady as your concubine?”
The others laughed.
Gentleman Li didn’t seem bothered. “You know what the banquet was for. She must have picked me as well. You’re right, though. The third young mistress is volatile. I have to find a way to marry the mysterious girl first. Someone like her shouldn’t be a concubine.”
Nan Xun drank silently, his eyes dark.
He put down his cup and glanced at Gentleman Li. The young man was nothing but a lecherous scum. He scoffed and walked away, leaving the teahouse after paying the bill.
Outside, the weather was nice. He resumed his investigation and didn’t return to the Grand Chancellor’s manor until night fell. Without notifying Yin Yun, he snuck into Jun Huang’s room.
Jun Huang heard him when she was reading under the candlelight. She looked up and smiled at him, putting the book away. “Did you find anything?”
Nan Xun silently approached her and took in the questioning look in her eyes. He chuckled.
Ah, how could he have doubted her?
He’d fallen for her beauty and grace. Of course there would be others captivated by her as well. He shouldn’t have doubted her just because of a man’s boasting words.
His silence prompted Jun Huang to ask, “What is it?”
“I hear a young mistress of this manor met a gentleman named Li during the matchmaking banquet,” Nan Xun said teasingly. “The two hit it off immediately. The young mistress is going to accept Gentleman Li’s proposal soon. Is that true?”
Jun Huang blinked and snorted when she realized that Nan Xun was jealous. It made her laugh.
“What a ridiculous story. Where did you hear that?”
“I didn’t make it up. Gentleman Li said himself he’d abandon the third young mistress and marry you instead.” Nan Xun wasn’t as jealous as he’d made it out to be, but he couldn’t stand hearing someone talk about Jun Huang like that.
Jun Huang chuckled. She comforted him and told him what had actually happened that day. Then she asked, “How about you? Have you found anything?”
Nan Xun sighed, his brows furrowed. “I haven’t found anything about Jun Hao. Someone has been erasing their tracks very effectively.”
“No rush. We have to be patient and think carefully what we should do. There’s got to be a better solution.” Jun Huang was calm. She patiently thought about their situation with a slight crease on her forehead.
Nan Xun nodded in agreement. “The fact that we can’t find anything makes things even more suspicious. I’ll find him sooner or later. Don’t worry.”