Phoenix Ascending

Chapter 50

Chapter 50: Insults and Mockeries

They were close. Nan Xun could see how bashful Jun Huang actually was feeling, and Jun Huang could see the tenderness Nan Xun hid under his steely expression.

Jun Huang suppressed the unfamiliar feelings in her heart and took a step back, bumping into the table behind her. Nan Xun quickly pulled her in and bent his head bent down to ask, “Does it hurt?”

Leaning against Nan Xun’s chest, Jun Huang’s breathing grew erratic and her usual composure was long gone. She didn’t know what to do, so she just let Nan Xun hold her.

When the clerk came back from his trip to the storage room, he was surprised to see his two customers being within one another’s personal space. Jun Huang quickly pushed Nan Xun away and focused on something else, her cheeks red. Nan Xun looked away after throwing Jun Huang a glance.

This was a rare chance for Jun Huang to indulge herself in shopping. She bought one of almost every item sold in the store. Nan Xun teased her for doing so. She shrugged and said it was Qi Chen’s silver she was spending. Nan Xun snorted and didn’t comment on that.

When they left the store, the sun was setting. Jun Huang looked at the dim lights on the street, her heart suddenly soared. She turned to Nan Xun with bright eyes and a soft smile. “Thank you for your help today. It’s about time for dinner. If Your Highness is willing, what do you say I buy you dinner and some drinks at a tavern?”

Nan Xun was looking off into the distance. In the end, he shook his head and sighed. “Sorry. I have matters to attend to now. We will see each other again at a later time. There will be plenty of opportunities for us to share a meal. You should go now. Come on. I’ll walk you back.” He left for Prince Chen Manor before Jun Huang could say anything.

She didn’t have a choice but to follow. However she still felt a little lost. It was difficult for a woman to invite a man to dine, yet Nan Xun had turned her down.

The streets were bustling with activity. This was a prosperous city. Had Western Que not been destroyed, would it be this lively as well? She couldn’t help but wonder about that from time to time.

When they reached the manor, Qi Chen was standing by the gate. Jun Huang cursed under her breath. It was too late for Nan Xun to leave. Qi Chen had already seen them and was coming this way.

Qi Chen looked at Nan Xun with a polite but distant smile. “This is a surprise.”

“I ran into gentleman Feng on the street and saw that his servants were carrying quite a lot of things,” Nan Xun met Qi Chen’s eyes and said openly. There was no trace of guilt on his face. ”This is the imperial city, however it is late. There are many people who may see them as the perfect target. I decided to accompany gentleman Feng to keep him safe.”

He was so convincing Qi Chen thought he was probably telling the truth. Even Jun Huang was almost compelled to believe his words.

Sometimes she felt that maybe Nan Xun was simply being polite and didn’t really care for her at all. Now, when she looked up at him, she saw a handsome face with no warmth. This was a man who would never be hindered by anyone nor anything in the mortal world. This man would always be above all others. Always cold and collected. She felt the urge to ask if the affection she felt in the past was real, and if their entanglement today really happened.

But Jun Huang wasn’t the princess of Western Que anymore. She was gentleman Feng Baiyu. She had to always keep in mind the family and country she had lost. How could she let anything stop her from reaching her goal? She had to let her past self die. She must never open up to anyone again.

Nan Xun looked aside and noticed the undercurrent of emotions in Jun Huang’s eyes. Suddenly he felt his chest tighten. He didn’t know why exactly. He only knew there was something he had to clarify. Before he could say anything, however, Jun Huang had turned back into the usual Feng Baiyu. Always so very distant to everyone; it was like there was nothing tying her to the world.

“Thank you, Your Highness, for walking me back.” Jun Huang cupped her hands and bowed. ”It’s late. You should return soon. It’s cold and humid at night. Take care not to get sick.”

Nan Xun balled up his hands into fists and couldn’t stop them from trembling. He closed his eyes to cover up his feelings. When he opened his eyes, he was again the war god of Northern Qi, and Jun Huang was only an honored guest dependant on another prince, waiting for a chance to get her revenge.

He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have anything to say, either. He took his leave with his pageboy. Dust flew up from the tail of his robe and danced in the lamplight.

The pageboy had been serving Nan Xun for many years. He could clearly see that Nan Xun was brooding. On their way back he remained silent for fear of angering his prince further.

Jun Huang looked away from Nan Xun. Qi Chen slowly opened his mouth and said, “Brother Feng appears familiar with Nan Xun. Did you know each other from before?”

Jun Huang smiled a little. “When I traveled around I once ran into a group of bandits. If not for Prince Nan’s help, I would have died before reaching Northern Qi. We didn’t really know each other. I just owe him a favor. Rest assured, I know where to draw the line.”

Qi Chen nodded. “That’s fine, then. Brother Feng must remember, however, that Nan Xun is not the upstanding sort. You have to be careful when you’re with him.”

“I will remember Your Royal Highness’s words,” Jun Huang calmly said, her tone betraying none of her feelings. Qi Chen didn’t keep her any longer. It was late. He told Jun Huang to go rest.

On her way back to the side building, she bumped into Wei Lanying, who was relaxing in the pavilion. Wei Lanying saw Jun Huang and went up to her with the help of her maid.

Jun Huang knew she was only an honored guest, while Wei Lanying was Qi Chen’s spouse. It was better for her to be civil with Wei Lanying. She cupped her hands in greeting. “Evening, Lady Wei.”

Wei Lanying huffed and stared at Jun Huang without a word, her eyes filled with disdain.

After a while it was clear that Wei Lanying wasn’t going to say anything, so Jun Huang decided to leave. Wei Lanying, however, stopped her. She sneered, “Have you forgotten this is the prince’s manor, Feng Baiyu? This isn’t the rundown place you used to live in. I’m the prince’s spouse. Is this how you treat your masters?”

Jun Huang couldn’t help but laugh. “Lady Wei has asked me something I can’t answer. Don’t you know the princess is entering the manor after a few days? Then she will be the master. Where will Lady Wei be after that?”

“You – ” Wei Lanying was so angry she couldn’t say anything. She could feel a ball of fire burning in her lungs, spreading to her head. She didn’t know Jun Huang had such a sharp tongue.

Her lips twisted into a smile in her rage. “True, after Nan Guyue comes I’ll be nothing in the manor. But aren’t you trying too hard to butter up the princess? I thought the strategist the prince picked would have more integrity, but you are only a despicable weasel. ”

“Oh, I don’t care what Lady Wei thinks, but what if someone with malicious intent hears you? If they tell the prince? What will the prince think then?”

Jun Huang didn’t go around insulting people, but she was no push-over, either. She didn’t hurt people who had not hurt her. For people who attacked her, however, she would pay them back twofold. Normally she didn’t care to talk back to Wei Lanying, and she had taken many of Wei Lanying’s insults and mockeries silently. This woman, however, just didn’t know when to back down.

Perhaps Wei Lanying had been spoiled rotten at home and had never been insulted like this before, so she couldn’t control herself. She raised her hand to slap Jun Huang.

Jun Huang grabbed her wrist before she could hit her. Wei Lanying was unnerved by Jun Huang’s gaze. For a moment, she forgot to struggle and just let Jun Huang retrain her.

“Have you forgotten my advice so quickly? If Lady Wei continues to act like this, the prince really will grow to despise you. Do you think I will give you another chance to hit me?” Jun Huang’s smile was cold and her eyes were sharp. Before Wei Lanying could react, Jun Huang flung her arm away. Wei Lanying lost her balance and fell onto a chair by the hallway. She let out a pained cry.

Jun Huang looked down at her. Wei Lanying’s appearance hadn’t changed. And she was as unlikable as she had been the first time they met. The bright and vibrant dress made her look respectful, but it was only a skin deep illusion.

Jun Huang took a deep breath. She was going to say something else, but in the end decided against it. She didn’t want to waste any more of her breath. She left, pretending Wei Lanying wasn’t there.

It was doomed to be a sleepless night. Jun Huang tossed and turned, but she couldn’t get Nan Xun’s indifferent expression out of her head. Way past midnight, she still wasn’t any closer to falling asleep. After the time to drink a cup of tea, she heard footsteps coming from just outside her window. She rolled down from the bed whilst taking out a silver needle, keeping her eyes firmly on the door.

The oil for the candle on the desk had run out. It was put out when the door creaked open. Jun Huang’s breath hitched. She wasn’t sure what was happening and didn’t dare to take action recklessly. This was the prince’s manor. Anyone who could reach her room without Wei Qian noticing must be extremely well-trained.

When the door was fully opened, Jun Huang’s eyes went cold, and she was about to throw the needle. But then the person opened her mouth. “Relax, gentleman Feng. It’s Rou’er.”

Jun Huang let out the breath she had been holding in when she heard that gentle, familiar voice. No wonder Qi Yun sent Rou’er here. She was more capable than Jun Huang had thought. It would be so easy for Rou’er to kill Qi Chen. Qi Yun, however, had a big heart. He cared about his family still. Jun Huang was sure he wouldn’t really hurt Qi Chen.

“What are you doing here?” Jun Huang asked, putting away the needle. She sat down in the dark, poured herself a tea, and took a gulp.

Rou’er shut the door behind her. She didn’t light up the candle. She could still see Jun Huang clearly in the dark. Jun Huang paid her no mind and just kept drinking tea under her scrutiny. Jun Huang couldn’t look more relaxed.

Rou’er was impressed by her self-control. She greeted Jun Huang with cupped hands and lowered her head. “Prince Yun has said he wanted to meet with the gentleman.”

Jun Huang frowned. What does Qi Yun want? She didn’t voice her question. In her bemusement, she accidentally spilled a little tea over her fingers. Fortunately the tea had gone cold.

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