“Come on, let’s get some fresh air,” Nan Xun walked up to Jun Huang and whispered.
Jun Huang rubbed at her forehead. She was getting tired of the walls of her room. She nodded and had her maid help her get ready.
The housekeeper had promoted Nan Xun from a servant to a guard. He was told to keep an eye on Jun Huang in case something happened. When they left the manor this time, the housekeeper didn’t assigned anyone else to follow them, which saved them the trouble of pretending.
Once outside, Nan Xun’s sole focus was on keeping Jun Huang safe. She was touched, but her expression was as aloof as ever.
The maid was immediately dismissed. It’d been a while since she last saw her lover. She went to seek him out. She didn’t want to be the third wheel anyway.
Nan Xun and Jun Huang soon reached a quiet place with nice scenery. He knew that she was a woman of culture. That was why he led her here. Unfortunately, they ran into some of the young mistresses from the Grand Chancellor’s manor.
“Oh, isn’t it my sickly little sister?” The third mistress covered her mouth and chuckled, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Jun Huang frowned. She didn’t want to waste her time on her fake sisters, but they weren’t going to let her go without her greeting them. Weighing her options, she took a deep breath and walked up to them, her lips curved into a polite smile.
“I didn’t expect to run into sisters. I hope you won’t blame me for not noticing you before.”
“Blame you?” sneered the third young mistress. “Oh, we wouldn’t dare.”
The first young mistress had more self-control. She tugged at the third young mistress’s sleeve in warning before taking a step forward, her smile friendly. “Where are you going, sister?”
“Enjoying the quiet like people in the past often did,” said Jun Huang. “I hear that the view is beautiful. I came to get some fresh air since I have some time.”
She lowered her eyes. The dangling ornament on her hairpin shook in the wind, and the strands of silk wrapping around her body flew and tangled in the air. Added to that her pale and thin face, she looked heartbreakingly delicate.
The young scions following behind the young mistresses muttered among themselves, which further stoked the girls’ anger.
The first young mistress might be good at controlling her emotions, but she wasn’t Jun Huang. She couldn't help but get jealous. “The others must have been stunned by your appearance, sister,” she said with a smile. “Unfortunately, you’re bound to the manor by your illness. Why did you push yourself and left the manor? Why don’t you stay home? There’s a pretty big garden there. Is it not enough for you?”
Jun Huang wasn’t a fool. She could read between the lines and understand her words as the mockery it was. She looked up at the first young mistress. “I understand where you come from. Thank you for your concern. However, I didn’t want to stay at home despite my condition. What a coincidence it is for me to run into you here. If we weren’t sisters, others would laugh at us for running into our worst enemy at every corner.”
“You said you were here to enjoy the quiet like people in the past often did,” the second young mistress piped up, her tone mocking. “How quaint. We’ve been improvising poems on our way here like the old scholars. I wonder if you’ve read the four books and five classics with that frail body of yours?”
Nan Xun couldn’t stop himself from shooting them a glare. The first young mistress noticed and scoffed. “It’s said that servants resemble their master. If sister doesn’t know how to properly train your servants, you may send them to me. I’ll teach them what they should and shouldn’t do.”
Jun Huang didn’t care about being the subject of their scorn, but she wouldn’t allow anyone to insult Nan Xun. Her eyes turned frosty. “You’re right. Servants do resemble their master. That’s why I don’t dare let you lay a finger on him. Any servants taught by a master like you will be too much for me to handle.”
“Keep reciting your poems, my dear sisters. I don’t want to hear another word from you, and I don’t want to hear the work of ancient poets coming out of your mouths, claimed by those who don’t deserve the art. Ha, others may not mock you, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to hold my tongue.”
She walked away with Nan Xun in tow.
“She deserves to be bed-ridden.” The first young mistress spat through gritted teeth, trembling with anger. She wanted to curse Jun Huang out, but they were outside. Too many unwanted eyes were watching. She must not lose her composure as the oldest daughter from an esteemed family.
Jun Huang couldn’t contain her anger. She stalked off with a dark expression and didn’t break the silence until much later. “We can’t stay in the Grand Chancellor’s manor any longer. If we do, I...”
Taking a deep, calming breath, she turned to Nan Xun. “When are we leaving?”
Nan Xun understood her anger. He was just as furious when the young mistresses insulted Jun Huang. If he didn’t have to keep a low profile, he’d have dealt with the girls and put them through hell.
“Soon. Don’t worry.” Nan Xun tried to comfort her. He suggested, “We shouldn’t let those people ruin our day. Why don’t we buy some gifts for Jun Hao? He’ll be happy.”
That was a good idea. Jun Huang nodded without hesitation. They made their way to the downtown area and walk around to look for gifts.
Jun Huang didn’t go out a lot. The city was foreign to her, and the mistress didn’t let her leave the manor often. She’d allowed her a lot more leeway recently, though.
“I know you don’t remember Jun Hao’s preferences, but don’t worry too much,” Nan Xun spoke up when he noted the frown on Jun Huang’s forehead. “We’ll buy something a boy his age will like. Of course, you should get whatever catches your fancy as well.”
“I know.” Jun Huang nodded and gave him a reassuring smile. She picked up a finely crafted toy and considered it. Nan Xun turned to her. The way sunlight caught her in a warm glow captivated him.
“You two are a perfect fit,” the owner of the street stand said earnestly, looking up at Jun Huang and Nan Xun.
Even though that was likely to be nothing but a sales pitch, Jun Huang couldn’t help but blush. She coughed and looked away, pretending to be nonchalant.
Pleased, Nan Xun paid for what Jun Huang had picked and took her hand, ignoring the looks cast their way.
Jun Huang widened her eyes slightly, but she didn’t pull away. She averted her gaze with a faint but warm smile on her face.
Meanwhile, the emperor of Eastern Wu was having a difficult time.
In the end, he caved under the pressure from the royal clan and adopted a few of their members. The boys had been convinced by their parents that the throne would one day be theirs. As a result, there wasn’t a moment when they weren’t plotting against one another.
The emperor had been discontent with the situation he was in. The way the boys behaved and the medicine the eunuch gave him made it even more difficult for him to control his anger. He became more irritable and lost his temper frequently. The palace was in chaos. No order could be established.
Nan Xun was thoughtful when he got the news. He silently thanked the man behind the scene for getting the emperor to this point. However, the man’s motive was still unknown. Nan Xun couldn’t help but worry.
Seeing Jun Hao laying bonelessly against Jun Huang for her attention ignited his irritation. He marched toward them and picked Jun Hao up.
“Don’t you know that men and women shouldn’t stay in the same bed after age seven?” Nan Xun said disapprovingly. “If others see you like that, you’ll get laughed at.”
Jun Hao had come to accept Nan Xun as his brother-in-law over the time. He squirmed out of Nan Xun’s grip and stuck his tongue out at him before hiding behind Jun Huang.
Pissed, Nan Xun reached out to grab the boy, but Jun Huang stopped him and laughed. “You’re a grown man. Why are you arguing with him like a boy? If others see you now, you will be laughed at.”
His anger couldn’t last when Jun Huang smiled at him like that. He sighed. “You’re the bane of my existence, but I’ll gladly accept that. I want to stay with you and take you everywhere I go.”
Jun Huang paused and chuckled. “I feel the same.”
Their intimacy was almost too much to witness. It was all anyone could ask for to have a love like theirs. However, not everyone could be like them. Even fewer could live through what they’d been through.
Jun Hao grimaced and whined with his hands on his hip, “Have you forgotten about me? I’m still young. You’re a bad influence. Leave my room. I don’t want the two of you here.”
Nan Xun pulled a serious face at him. “If you get influenced so easily, you can only blame yourself for being weak-minded...”
Jun Huang looked at them exasperatedly. They were going to start arguing again.
However, she also knew that Jun Hao had kicked her out because she’d been here for a while. He worried that she’d be suspected by those in the manor. In truth, he was the last person who would want her to go.