The fifth prince pontificated about his plan to the couple dressed in dragon robe and phoenix dress, his voice dripping with venom. “You brought this to yourselves! Western Que should’ve been mine, but what did you do? You insisted on passing the throne to the little boy! How is he a better candidate?
He let out a peel of unhinged laughter. “Since you won’t let me take the throne, I’ll destroy it! What I cannot gain, others won’t, either!”
“Western Que is doomed! So are you! This is the end of everything!”
The fifth prince’s voice grew hoarse. He stared at the man on the throne, his face contorted in hatred.
“You heartless monster!” The man in dragon robe growled. The fifth prince huffed and slapped the man in the face. He was starting to forget himself.
The woman dressed in phoenix robe charged at him with a fierce expression. Caught off guard, the fifth prince was knocked to the floor. He narrowed his eyes at the woman and grabbed her hair. Things went a little hectic after that.
The fifth prince had forgotten that this was merely for show. He shot the couple a hateful glare as the man dressed in dragon robe shielded his wife with his body, keeping a silent eye on the fifth prince. Then, a young boy ran out of the secret chamber.
Jun Huang widened her eyes, confusion lifted from her expression. She tried to move forward, but the maid’s grip tightened around her wrist. She couldn’t break free.
Jun Huang looked at her in shock. The maid’s unwavering gaze and impassive expression made her even more befuddled.
“Let go of Royal Father and Mother!” Jun Hao’s eyes were bright and piercing. It was as if he could see through one’s soul.
The fifth prince stopped to look at Jun Hao and scoffed. With big strides, he marched toward Jun Hao.
The boy knew this was a show, but he couldn’t help feeling scared when he saw the fifth prince’s eyes. He tried his best to tamp his fear down. This was for Jun Huang’s sake.
He balled his hands into fists like he’d done in his memory. The fifth prince couldn’t help the resentment growing in his heart. He seized Jun Hao’s arm in a viselike grip. The boy struggled but failed to break free.
The fifth prince picked up a dagger and threatened, “Give me the imperial seal. Then I may spare your lives. Otherwise, I’m not going to show you any mercy.”
“No, he can’t have the seal.” The woman grabbed the man in dragon robe by his arm and shook her head, her tears falling like a cut pearl necklace. “You mustn’t, Your Majesty. The seal is a sign of authority. It can only be given to those with integrity and wisdom. Heartless men like him will end up ruining the nation. If Hao’er has to be sacrificed for Western Que’s sake, he’ll… it’ll be...”
The woman couldn’t finish her sentence. Her entire body trembled as she sobbed.
The fifth prince’s expression darkened. He threw Jun Hao to the floor and, when the boy was still recovering, picked up a long sword, seemingly intending to kill Jun Hao.
The couple couldn’t bear to watch their son get killed, but there was nothing they could do. The man held the woman tight and squeezed his eyes shut. Jun Huang felt as if her heart had been cut open. It was unbearably painful.
Without thinking, Jun Huang charged at the fifth prince. This time, the maid didn’t stop her. Jun Huang didn’t have the time to question that. Her only thought was to keep Jun Hao safe.
Before the fifth prince could attack Jun Hao, Jun Huang hurriedly stepped between him and the boy and picked up a sword to defend her brother.
A malicious idea took root in the fifth prince’s mind. Although Nan Xun had agreed to let him live, Jun Huang wouldn’t allow that to happen. He was going to die even if he cooperated. It was better that he fought Jun Huang for real and killed her. Then he would think about escaping.
He raised his sword and marched toward Jun Huang. Nan Xun could no longer stay on the sideline. He was about to make a move when Yin Yun showed up and kicked the fifth prince away. While the prince was struggling to get up, Yin Yun led both Jun Huang and Jun Hao outside.
The fifth prince covered his chest with one hand and punched the floor with the other. He knew he had to keep playing his role as per Nan Xun’s instructions.
He took a deep breath. He only had a chance to kill Jun Huang if he lived. He mustn’t grow impatient and expose his true intention.
He resumed his role and got to his feet, ordering the soldiers to give chase.
Jun Huang looked at Yin Yun, then at Jun Hao, who had fainted from a fit of panic. She could hear soldiers closing in on them. Her forehead was covered in sweat, but she forced herself to calm down.
She knew the fifth prince and his soldiers would catch up with them if they did nothing. She came to a halt. Yin Yun stopped to look at her questioningly, holding Jun Hao in his arms.
“Take Jun Hao and go, Yin Yun.”
“What?” Yin Yun questioned.
Jun Huang’s eyes were determined and calm. Her gaze shifted between Yin Yun and Jun Hao. “They want me. If we go together, we’ll all get caught. You have to flee with Jun Hao. I’ll direct our pursuers away from you.”
“You mustn’t, princess.”
“That’s an order,” Jun Huang snapped.
Yin Yun looked at the boy in his arms and, with great reluctance, nodded. He ran away carrying Jun Hao.
Jun Huang sighed in relief. Throwing a glance back at the pursuers, she ran in the other direction. As she expected, all the soldiers opted to follow her.
She came to a cliff. It seemed bottomless. She couldn’t see anything below. She stood tall under the moonlight. The silver glow hardened her features. The thin layer of white robe she’d hurriedly put on flew and tangled with her long, black hair.
She glanced down at the bottomless pit. That way seemed to lead to hell.
Strangely, she wasn’t afraid. When the fifth prince reached her, she gave him a final, frigid look. Then she jumped.
As she fell, she remembered a man with sculpted features. His eyes always went soft when they landed on her. The man loved and respected her, and she couldn’t repay what he’d done for her.
A single tear streamed down her cheek and scattered. She closed her eyes, feeling the gusts of wind whip past her ears.
Nan Xun knew she would be fine, but his heart stopped when she jumped all the same. He followed after her.
He soon saw the falling Jun Huang. He controlled his movement to get close to her and grabbed her, pulling her into his arms. Jun Huang had lost consciousness.
They landed on the net they’d set up beforehand. Nan Xun quickly checked Jun Huang for injury. Her face was as pale as a sheet. With aching heart, he gently caressed her cheek. He then gathered her into his arms and climbed up.
Nan Xun’s men had caught the fifth prince as soon as Nan Xun jumped after Jun Haung. The fifth prince let them take him to a prison cell without resisting.
Yin Yun and Jun Hao emerged from the other side. Jun Hao opened his eyes to see Jun Huang laying in Nan Xun’s arms. He burst into tears.
Nan Xun frowned. “Go with Yin Yun. Once Jun Huang wakes up, I’ll send someone to take you here.”
“No, I want to stay with sister! I’m not going anywhere!” Jun Hao bawled, refusing to leave. Nan Xun pursed his lips, conflicted. On one hand, Jun Hao’s crying was getting on his nerves. On the other hand, the boy was Jun Huang’s brother. He had to tolerate him.
Yin Yun could sense Nan Xun’s dark mood. Without prompting, he picked Jun Hao up and walked away.
Jun Huang felt like she’d been trapped in a nightmare. It all felt so real. She could barely keep breathing. Her body trembled against her will.
Nan Xun held her hand tightly, his heart pounding painfully.
“No, don’t!” Jun Huang jerked awake. Cold sweat streamed down from her forehead and drenched her hair.
Nan Xun held her trembling body close, his throat tight. “Alright, you’re alright. Don’t be afraid. I’m here.”
Jun Huang had finally remembered everything. The collapsing palace. The bone-chilling wind that cut her cheeks as she fell. She couldn’t help but cry, holding tightly to Nan Xun’s collar, her hot tears leaving wet patches on his robe.
Nan Xun could offer nothing but comfort, gently telling her that everything was in the past.
It took a long time for Jun Huang to calm down. Her face was red from sobbing. She looked pitiful.
Nan Xun gently wiped away her tears and dropped a featherlight kiss on the corner of her eye.
“What do you plan to do with the fifth prince?” Nan Xun finally said once Jun Huang was calm enough.
Jun Huang had figured out what was going on. Everything had been a show Nan Xun and the others put on for her. She didn’t blame Nan Xun. In fact, she was grateful. How could she had forgotten about the burning hatred in her heart?
She stared at the wavering candlelight. “I’ll cut him down and grind his bones to ashes.”