Jun Huang soon heard about Nan Xun’s punishment for the servants. She was momentarily stunned. The one delivering the news to her said teasingly, “You don’t know how much influence you have in the manor, miss. The prince has punished a good number of servants for you, a majority of whom are his confidantes.”
Jun Huang put away her book and threw the servant a cool glance, scaring the servant into silence. “The prince has his reasons. Why would I be involved?”
Jun Huang knew what Nan Xun’s motivation was, of course. She curved her lips into a smile. Others took that as her laughing at their misfortune.
Jun Huang brought it up the next time she saw Nan Xun. “You know I don’t care about what they said. There’s no need for you to get angry and make things difficult for yourself.”
“They’re irrelevant. I know you care about me, and I gladly accept your kindness. However, you shouldn’t be too harsh on them. We both know how fickle the human heart can be.” Jun Huang’s tone was earnest, and her expression serious.
Nan Xun realized that Jun Huang had heard about what he’d done. He sighed. “You’re too soft. People are going to walk all over you. You should know that as well.”
“I simply don’t want to waste my attention on them,” Jun Huang said calmly.
Nan Xun ruffled her hair. “Qi Yun summoned me to the palace. I can’t stay with you today.”
Jun Huang chuckled. “Go ahead. Don’t let me delay you. I’ll spend my time reading books and wait for you for dinner.”
That warmed Nan Xun’s heart. He was reluctant to leave, but he didn’t have a choice. He turned around to look at her every step he took. Jun Huang saw him off before returning to her book.
Nan Xun made his way to Qi Yun’s residence and entered after the eunuch had notified Qi Yun. When he entered, the young prince was approving reports.
“Is there an emergency?” Nan Xun asked without preamble.
Qi Yun looked up at him and asked faintly, “I hear Royal Brother has punished a lot of servants recently. I’m curious, aren’t they your most trusted people? What have they done to deserve your ire?”
If Nan Xun was bothered by the question, he didn’t let it show. “It’s nothing. They said the wrong thing to the wrong people. I punished them. Simple as that.”
Qi Yun arched an eyebrow. He heard that Nan Xun had gotten angry for a woman. The vague explanation made him suspicious. He wondered what Nan Xun was hiding.
After some deliberation, he cleared his throat. “Oh, I asked you to come for the grain storage in the northern part of the city. Last month, the man in charge claimed that there was a leak and a big portion of the grains were ruined. However, he hasn’t given me the exact number. Why don’t you go get an answer for me, Royal Brother?”
Nan Xun did consider that worthy of his attention. He nodded and walked out of the palace. The eunuch waited until Nan Xun had left before he said, “There are many officials at your disposal, Your Highness It’s a simple storage. You could’ve sent anyone. Why would you order Prince Nan to take care of it? He’s only just returned. He must be tired...”
“Oh?” Qi Yun’s face turned cold. The eunuch knew he’d gone above his station. He shut his mouth.
Qi Yun rose to his feet. “Get prepared. I’m leaving.”
“Where is Your Highness going?”
“His manor,” Qi Yun said with an unreadable look. Before the eunuch could respond, Qi Yun went off to get changed. It dawned on the eunuch why his master had been so insistent about sending Nan Xun away.
Not long after, Qi Yun visited Nan Xun’s manor under the guise of a private inspection. The housekeeper was scared and worried. He feared that he’d get Nan Xun in trouble if he failed to treat the de facto emperor well enough. “Apologies, Your Highness. Prince Nan isn’t in.”
“I know. He’s been sent to the northern part of the city. I simply came because I have some free time”
Ignoring the housekeeper’s reaction, Qi Yun went straight into the manor. He heard a familiar voice coming from the back. His heart pounded. Something unexplainable drew him to the voice.
He spotted Jun Huang immediately. In a fit of uncontained joy, he rushed forward and threw his arms around her. “When did you return, Jun Huang?”
Jun Huang frowned and broke out of his hold, taking a few steps backward. She stared at him without hiding her discomfort and indignation.
Assuming that he’d angered her somehow, Qi Yun rushed to explain, “What’s wrong, Jun Huang? Have I scared you? Please forgive me for my outburst. I haven’t seen you for a while, and I didn’t know when I’d get to see you again. It’s such a pleasant surprise to run into you here today. That’s why I couldn’t control myself.”
Jun Huang leveled him with a frigid glance. “Please restrain yourself, mister.”
That was all she said before she turned to leave.
Caught off guard, Qi Yun rushed to block Jun Huang’s way before she could leave. “What’s the meaning of this, Jun Huang?”
Jun Huang frowned. She didn’t remember anything about Qi Yun. His insistence made her uncomfortable. “Nothing. I just don’t want to stay here. If you insist on staying, be my guest and sit here on your own.” She threw the housekeeper a look. “If the prince doesn’t return soon, you should walk our guest outside.”
She walked away.
Qi Yun stared at her back, his heart aching. He wondered if this was her way of distancing from him.
The housekeeper frowned. He didn’t expect Jun Huang to be so blunt. Qi Yun was going to be the emperor. He wasn’t someone she should offend.
“Your Highness, she’s sometimes too direct for her own good, but she didn’t mean anything by that.”
“I know. I have other business to attend to. I’ll take my leave.” Qi Yun looked away after Jun Huang had disappeared and walked out of the manor like a living corpse, sparing no glance for the housekeeper. His people followed him out.
Jun Huang lay down on her bed and meditated. She couldn’t recall who Qi Yun was. She rubbed at her temples and fell asleep.
The sun was setting when Nan Xun finished investigating the storage. He sent one of his men to tell Qi Yun that he’d report back tomorrow before returning to his manor.
When he reached the dining hall, Jun Huang was nowhere to be seen. A servant told him that Jun Huang had been staying in her room.
Has she forgotten about time reading again? Nan Xun hurried to her residence opened the door to see her lying on the bed. Her eyelashes fluttered in the night wind.
“What’s wrong? Not feeling well?” Nan Xun approached her worriedly and rubbed at her temples.
Jun Huang opened her eyes and sat up, shaking her head. “Nothing. Just a little tired.”
“You need rest,” said Nan Xun. “You can read anytime. Your wellbeing is more important than anything?”
Jun Huang nodded casually and said after some hesitation, “A young man I don’t recognize visited today.”
Nan Xun’s expression clouded, his brows furrowed. He asked Jun Huang to tell him what had happened. She obliged without any resistance.
Nan Xun had an idea about who it had been, but he’d like to make sure. He sought out the housekeeper, who confirmed that it had been Qi Yun.
With that figured out, Nan Xun returned to Jun Huang’s room. She looked at him questioningly. Nan Xun was going to tell her about Qi Yun, but decided against it. With a smile, he said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. He won’t come bother you again.”
Jun Huang relaxed and nodded with a smile. Once dinner was ready, the two of them went to the dining hall together.
Afterwards, Jun Huang’s eyelids started growing heavy. Nan Xun tucked her in before returning to his room. He decided that he should clear the air with Qi Yun. He didn’t want Qi Yun to chase after Jun Huang.
The next day, after briefing Qi Yun on what had happened to the storage, he lingered in the palace. Qi Yun asked curiously, “What’s wrong, Royal Brother?”
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Nan Xun said with steel in his voice. “Even if we weren’t brothers, you shouldn’t covet the wife of an official. Don’t forget that you were our witness when Jun Huang and I got married. You have no excuse for crossing the line.”
Qi Yun was both mortified and furious, his body trembling and his face flushed. Finally, he said, “Then you better keep a good eye on her. Maybe she’ll realize that I’m a better choice one day and leave you for me.”
“She’s not a regular woman, but we both know she’s still interested in literature and art. Perhaps she prefers spending her time with me.”
Nan Xun stopped to look at Qi Yun. He knew Qi Yun was merely trying to anger him. He snorted. “If Jun Huang liked you better, I wouldn’t be here. You knew Jun Huang before I did. You practically grew up together. However, there’s nothing romantic about her relationship with you. If she hadn't fallen for you over the years you know each other, she’s not going to fall for you now.”