Chapter 162: Turning down the Invitation
The woman stood up gingerly. She didn’t even dare to breathe heavily. She didn’t want Nan Xun to think of her as someone who didn’t know her manners.
Nan Xun wasn’t one to judge people for formalities, though. He smiled slightly in response and asked her to sit.
“We don’t know your name yet,” said Jun Huang after sitting down, her eyes shifting to the woman. “Can you tell us?”
The woman took an instant dislike to Jun Huang for reason unbeknownst to herself. Jun Huang was Nan Xun’s friend though. It would be rude of her to not answer her question. The woman turned to Nan Xun and said, “You may call me Rong’er. What about you gentlemen?”
“I’m Nan Xun,” said Nan Xun. He gestured at Jun Huang and added, “This is Feng Baiyu,” as if it was the most natural thing for him to introduce Jun Huang as well.
“Why is Rong’er here?” Nan Xun asked as an afterthought. He just realized that it was a little odd for Rong’er to be right at their door.
Rong’er let out a silent breath. Even fate had helped bring them together. “I came for the martial arts tournament with my master and my seniors. We’ve been here for a few days. We happened to be staying on the third floor in this inn as well.”
“What a coincidence,” marveled Nan Xun.
Rong’er nodded with her face flushed. She kept sneaking glances at Nan Xun.
Despite being a master of martial arts, Nan Xun was oblivious to her meaningful gaze. He had eyes only for Jun Huang. He didn’t even know why Rong’er was blushing. He assumed she must have fallen for Jun Huang too. The bystander’s comment earlier did make some sense to him.
Compared to Nan Xun’s stoic attitude, Jun Huang was a lot more gentle. Unlike other women, though, Rong’er was partial to men like Nan Xun. She wasn’t interested in the softer type.
It was clear as day to Jun Huang that Rong’er’s target was Nan Xun. She threw Rong’er a glance behind her teacup before shifting her focus to Nan Xun. She couldn’t deny that she was pleased by Nan Xun’s indifference to Rong’er’s attention.
It took a moment for Nan Xun to notice the odd atmosphere at the table. He looked up and saw Jun Huang drinking tea like it was water. He took the cup away from her with a frown. “You’re injured. Too much tea is going to cause your wound to fester.”
“The dishes are a little salty,” said Jun Huang.
Jun Huang had meant it as a casual remark, but Nan Xun took it seriously and tasted each of the dishes before pushing the less seasoned ones toward Jun Huang. He quietly told her what would be better for her health.
Rong’er was left high and dry like a stranger. She clenched her hands into fists. She despised Jun Huang for being such a phony. She had never seen any man acted like Jun Huang in her lifetime. What a poor excuse of a man!
“You must be brothers, are you not?” Rong’er couldn’t help but said.
“What do you mean?” asked Nan Xun.
Rong’er struggled to find the words. “You just seem close is all. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Nan Xun threw Jun Huang a glance, and Jun Huang turned to meet him halfway. They exchanged a small smile.
“We’re not brothers,” Nan Xun said, shaking his head. “We’re good friends.”
Rong’er’s expression darkened. Could friends really be this close?
Nan Xun and Jun Huang kept up a quiet conversation as if they had forgotten about her. Rong’er was compelled to remind them of her existence. “What did you come here for? Are you here to participate in the tournament?”
Nan Xun and Jun Huang shared a look. Nan Xun took out the drawings of Yin Yun and Jun Hao and asked, “Have you seen them?”
Rong’er leaned in to get a good look and shook her head. “No, I haven’t. The past couple of days I’ve been staying with my master. Didn’t get a chance to walk around the town. You’re here to find these two?”
Nan Xun put the drawings away and nodded. “We are. They are important to us. It’s a heavy weight on our hearts. It will be a relief to locate them.”
He quirked his lips a little. Rong’er’s heart clenched. The hand around her teacup started trembling a little.
“Don’t worry, you’ll find them in the end.” Rong’er didn’t know what else to say. She could only offer some platitudes.
Nan Xun nodded and continued eating. None of them talked for the rest of the dinner. Nan Xun still fetched Jun Huang food every once in a while. Their close relationship made jealousy burn in Rong’er’s heart.
Afterwards, Nan Xun and Jun Huang bid Rong’er farewell before going upstairs.
Nan Xun didn’t have to ask to know why Jun Huang had been quieter than usual. He took a step toward her and patted her on the shoulder. “We didn’t find anything today, either. Have you decided what to do next?”
Jun Huang looked up at him and didn’t immediately respond. “They probably have left town already. It’s going to be a waste of time to continue our search. We might as well leave for Yunzhou tomorrow. That’s the mission the emperor assigned you. Without you there, your second in command may not be able to keep the unrest in check.”
“Don’t worry,” Nan Xun said in a confident voice. “That man may seem bull-headed, but he is competent. I only sent him because I trusted him to take care of the riot for me.”
Jun Huang lowered her head. When she looked up again, she had turned back into her usual calm self.
Someone knocked on the door. Nan Xun and Jun Huang shared a look. Nan Xun got to his feet and fixed his sleeves before getting the door.
Outside stood Rong’er. Nan Xun didn’t expect her to come to their room so soon. He said after a brief pause, “Is something the matter?”
Even after spending some time with Nan Xun, Rong’er still couldn’t help her pounding heart when she saw him. She stared at him without a word.
Nan Xun called out for her again. She jerked out of her trance and said with a blush, “The gentleman probably has not seen the town at night. The lamps are now lit. If you don’t mind, I can take you on a tour to enjoy the view.”
She looked at him with hopeful eyes. Nan Xun turned to Jun Huang. She had been pushing herself during this trip. Her health had never been good, and there were a lot on her shoulders. She might collapse again if nothing was done.
“Alright, please wait for a moment.” Nan Xun walked back into the room and came up to Jun Huang.
Jun Huang had heard their conversation. Without missing a beat, she stood up and followed Nan Xun out of the door.
Jun Huang had been sitting behind the screen. Rong’er didn’t know Jun Huang was in the room as well. She was surprised to see Jun Huang and Nan Xun coming out of the room together. The way Nan Xun treated Jun Huang was so gentle; it was in stark contrast with his usual demeanor. Rong’er couldn’t pinpoint what this odd feeling in her heart was.
Noticing her gaze, Nan Xun explained, “When we got to the inn, there was no other room left. We could only stay together.”
Rong’er let out a sigh of relief and put on a wide and carefree smile. She walked on Nan Xun’s side, looking up at his handsome face from time to time. He made her heart flutter.
Yun Town wasn’t as beautiful as the imperial city at night, but it was one of the biggest business hubs in Northern Qi. Merchants came from all over the country to trade here. Unlike the imperial city, there was no curfew in Yun Town. Merchants and customers alike walked the street at night, filling the place with a great energy.
Decorations and lamps had been put up for the martial arts tournament. It looked as if the Chinese New Year had come. At the distance stood a brightly lit tavern. From handsome young men to knight-errants over thirty - everyone was allowed entrance.
“What do you plan to do next?” Rong’er asked. She had been agonizing over this.
“Leaving,” said Nan Xun. He had come to the conclusion that Rong’er wasn’t their enemies after the short time they had known her, so he didn’t keep their plan from her.
Disappointment flashed through Rong’er’s eyes. She was blessed to have met this man today. She couldn’t let him slip away from her.
She thought for a moment. When she looked up, Jun Huang was staring at a lantern.
Nan Xun asked her if she wanted to buy it. Jun Huang shook her head and said that something was meant to be appreciated, not owned.
An idea came to Rong’er. She put on a smile to hide her jealousy and came up to Jun Huang. “Is gentleman Feng interested in the tournament? Even though the gentleman has seemed preoccupied earlier, I could tell that you are trained in martial arts. Maybe you should participate as well.”
Jun Huang turned to her in surprise. “Is everyone allowed to participate?”
“Of course,” Rong’er said seriously. “As long as you are capable, you’re given the opportunity to earn your fame. Besides, the tournament is held by martial artists as well. There aren’t set rules. It’s going to be a unique experience. Why don’t you stay in town a little longer?”
Jun Huang didn’t want to get involved. She knew she wasn’t the best fighter, and the tournament wasn’t for the untrained. She hesitated, however, when she heard Rong’er mentioned fame.
Nan Xun noticed the change in Jun Huang’s attitude. He harshly cut in, “We’re not going to participate. Our family members are still out there. We plan to look around in other places.”
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