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Chapter 61: Possessed by Desires
"Is the gentleman alright?" Qi Chen asked Jun Huang with his brows furrowed. He looked tired.
Jun Huang shook her head and cleared her throat before turning to Nan Guyue. She smiled. "This gentleman is here for the princess's brother."
Nan Guyue frowned. "My brother? Has something happened to him?"
"Fret not, princess. Prince Nan Jihan is safe and sound. He's leaving for Southern Mu, however. He has matters to attend to and therefore cannot tell you himself, so he asked me to do it in his stead. He asks the princess to not worry about him."
Tears welled up in Nan Guyue's eyes. She was beside herself with sorrow. She wavered and almost fainted. Qi Chen quickly went up to steady her.
Jun Huang frowned. "Your Highness should help the princess sit down. This gentleman would like to take her pulse."
Qi Chen nodded. "Much appreciated." He helped Nan Guyue back to the pavilion. Jun Huang followed closely behind them.
Once Qi Chen helped Nan Guyue get settled, Jun Huang sat across from her and covered her wrist with a handkerchief before taking Nan Guyue's pulse.
She raised an eyebrow and let out a laugh. She was genuinely happy for them. "Congratulation, Your Royal Highness. This is worth celebrating!"
Qi Chen gave her a questioning look.
"The princess is pregnant. She's just a little weak. This gentleman will prescribe her some medicine for miscarriage prevention. She will be fine."
Qi Chen's eyes crinkled as he beamed. Nan Guyue, who was lying in his arms, slowly blinked her eyes open and smoothed a hand over her flat abdomen. She was both surprised and delighted.
Qi Chen leaned into her and whispered into her ear. They looked intimate. Jun Huang quietly walked away and gave them their privacy.
The next morning, Qi Chen came to the side building himself right after Jun Huang had woken up. Jun Huang c.o.c.ked her head. She wondered what he wanted.
The moment she walked out of the door, she saw silks and jewelry being placed in the front yard. She frowned. "What does Your Highness mean by this?"
Qi Chen was still overcome with joy. He impulsively took Jun Huang's hands in his. "This prince wouldn't have known Guyue was pregnant if not for the gentleman. You are also the one who brought us together. These gifts are not enough to express my grat.i.tude. If there is anything the gentleman wants, don't hesitate to tell me."
Qi Chen was now a father. His whole being radiated happiness and his smile hadn't fade ever since last night. He held onto Jun Huang's hands a little too tightly. Jun Huang couldn't break out of his grip, so she just let him be.
It took a moment for Qi Chen to come to his senses. He seemed to have remembered something and let go of Jun Huang's hands. "The princess was planning to send her brother off herself," he said after clearing his throat. "She's now pregnant, however. It's better that she doesn't travel the long distance. This prince knows that the gentleman is quite close to brother Nan Jihan. If you are willing, I'd like to ask you to see him off for us."
Jun Huang nodded. Her attention was caught by the serene garden. It was so full of life, it filled her heart with feelings she couldn't identify. She couldn't help being drawn.
Qi Chen took that as his cue to leave. He knew how Jun Huang was. She always liked the quiet, and she had few material desires. Besides, his whole heart was now devoted to taking care of Nan Guyue.
It took a moment for Jun Huang to realize that Qi Chen had left. Now the only other person here was Wei Qian. Wei Qian leaned against a pillar holding her sword in her arms. The light of the early sun shone on her face and obscured her features.
Jun Huang stayed in the hallway enjoying the peaceful view until Qi Chen sent a message to her, saying that Nan Jihan had decided on a departure time. Only then did Jun Huang walk to the garden. She picked up the cup of Kuding tea the maid had brewed earlier and took a sip. Bitterness a.s.saulted her taste buds, but she didn't so much as frown.
Soon, the day of Nan Jihan's departure had come. He was a royal prince after all. The emperor had bid him farewell himself, and he had ordered many guards to see him off. Nan Jihan turned the emperor down, however, stating that he didn't want to be a burden. Besides, he did bring a good number of guards to Northern Qi himself.
Jun Huang's appearance was a surprise. On his way to Southern Mu, Nan Jihan kept stopping in his tracks because he was waiting for Nan Guyue. He didn't expect Jun Huang to be the one who came. He was so thrilled he momentarily forgot about his sister.
"What is the gentleman here for?" Nan Jihan couldn't hide the happiness in his expression. He dismounted and went up to her.
Jun Huang got off her horse as well and walked the rest of the way with Nan Jihan. "I'm here to see Your Highness off on behalf of the princess."
They were close to the border of Northern Qi. On one side was the desert. On the other side was an oasis. Herds of cattles and sheep could be seen roaming the oasis, while the desert was barren and lifeless.
Above them was the boundless blue sky. Every once in a while a couple of wild geese would fly over their heads. The croaks weren't easy on the ears.
After a few moments of walking, Nan Jihan turned to Jun Huang. "Has something bad happened to my little sister? Why didn't she come?"
Jun Huang shook her head. "It's something good. The princess is now pregnant. Your Highness should be happy for her."
Nan Jihan blinked and couldn't make a sound for a good while. He was overwhelmed with joy and it showed on his face. "Are you telling the truth?"
"Of course." Jun Huang threw a glance at him and chuckled. She turned her gaze to look into the distance. Her focus didn't linger on Nan Jihan.
She had managed to lodge herself into Nan Jihan's heart. It felt as if there was a cat clawing at him, or a monkey playing with his ears. He couldn't calm himself.
Nan Guyue's pregnancy was good news to him. He had been worried that she may make enemies with the concubines in Prince Chen Manor because of her personality. Now that she had Qi Chen's child, no one would dare to do anything to her.
Moreover, her child would be Qi Chen's first. Qi Chen would protect the child at all cost. Once the child was born, no one would be able to touch Nan Guyue. She would have someone to depend on.
The more he thought about it, the happier he felt. Even Jun Huang's indifferent gaze couldn't faze him.
The past few nights, he had been thinking about the time he spent with Jun Huang. He knew he didn't see Jun Huang as merely a friend. His feelings for her were… different. It was difficult for him to deal with.
Sometimes, he hoped against hope that Jun Huang could be a woman. Then he wouldn't have to agonize over his feelings.
Nan Jihan had gotten to know Jun Huang. He knew she had a beautiful soul. She also won his respect with her wits. How could anyone not fall for a person like that?
He felt his self-control slipping again. He knew Jun Huang wasn't willing to leave with him. He knew what he wanted was against morals. He had planned to get rid of these inconvenient thoughts and settled his heart, but then… Jun Huang came to see him off.
If she hadn't come, he would have left with a heart filled with longing.
Maybe this is how people are. We keep asking the same question again and again, even though we know full well we will get the same answer. We choose to go through the pain.
Nan Jihan walked a few more meters before looking back at Jun Huang. She stopped too when he did. She thought that Nan Jihan had things he wanted to remind her, so she waited for him to open his mouth.
"Has the gentleman really decided to stay?" Nan Jihan asked nervously.
Jun Huang's gaze turned cold. They had been through this many times now. She thought Nan Jihan knew her answer already. Why would he bring it up again?
Without letting her respond, Nan Jihan continued to say, "Why doesn't the gentleman come with me? What do you think you can achieve here in Northern Qi? There's never a lack of smart people in a powerful country. Southern Mu is much smaller, but no one will be able to outs.h.i.+ne you there. Once I become the emperor, the gentleman will be granted the highest status next to mine. You will be the grand chancellor of Southern Mu."
"I thought you understood me already." Jun Huang let out a sharp laugh. "I didn't help Qi Yun in order to become a high-level official. If what I want is power or fame, I would have achieved great things already."
"This prince doesn't understand the gentleman. Why don't you explain it to me?" Nan Jihan grabbed Jun Huang by the arm. In her struggle, his nails dug into her skin and left red marks on her.
"We walk on different paths. Why can't Your Highness accept that? Besides, you and I have a deal. If Your Highness ever needs my help, this gentleman will not hesitate to offer my a.s.sistance. Your Highness doesn't need to insist on taking me with you." Jun Huang took a deep breath. The pain in her arm was making her lose her focus, and the poison in her system happened to act up again.
She would like to just let go and lose consciousness, but she couldn't.
Nan Jihan's eyes went blood red. He didn't notice how in pain Jun Huang was. He grabbed on her even more forcefully. Jun Huang's words, no matter how genuine, didn't even reach his ears.
Jun Huang couldn't break out of his grip. This was it. She had had enough. She discarded all pretense of civility and harshly said, "I will never go to Southern Mu with you. If you keep doing this, I won't even consider you my ally."
Nan Jihan went silent. He unconsciously let go of Jun Huang's arm. She immediately put distance between them. The obvious wariness on her face left a deep cut on Nan Jihan's heart.
I gave my whole heart to the bright moon, but it will rather s.h.i.+ne on a ditch.
Earlier they had kept a distance with the whole troop in order to talk. Now, there wasn't anyone around except for the two of them and Nan Jihan's shadow guards. Desire took over his body and he seized Jun Huang's wrist tightly. He wasn't going to let Jun Huang go again.
Jun Huang was startled and started struggling with all her might. She could taste blood in her throat. Her face went pale. This time, Nan Jihan did notice. He wanted to ask if she was alright, but he was worried that she might be pretending to be ill to lower his guard. He held on.
Once Jun Huang looked a little less like she was going to drop dead the next second, Nan Jihan gave one of his shadow guards a look. The guard sneaked up on her and hit the nape of her neck. Jun Huang's vision went dark. She made the last effort to push Nan Jihan away.
He was afraid that Jun Huang might hurt herself, so he didn't dare to let go of her, but he did lessen his force. Jun Huang's eyes rolled back and she fainted. Nan Jihan caught her in his arms.
The rest of his men heard the struggle and came to him. One of them said carefully, "Do you really plan to just take gentleman Feng away, Your Highness? If the crown prince finds out about this – "
"Shut up." He leveled the man with a cold glare. "Heed my words. Gentleman Feng asked to leave with me. If anyone dares to say the contrary, I will cut off their tongue."