Chapter 163: Pros and Cons
“It’ll only be a few days,” Rong’er insisted. How she hoped she could make the decision for Jun Huang! “Besides, if you win the tournament, wouldn’t it be easier for you to find your family?”
Her words were nothing but excuses. She could tell the level of training Jun Huang had received from their meeting earlier. She was simply trying to find a reason for them to stay. She wouldn’t convince Nan Xun to participate, though. She knew who the participants were. She wasn’t willing to put Nan Xun in danger.
She didn’t expect her reasoning to be effective, but it seemed like Jun Huang was considering her suggestion. Rong’er pushed further and said Jun Huang would win a lot of respect if she was able to rank top three. Having her new name known was all Jun Huang wanted, though.
It took one glance for Nan Xun to tell what Jun Huang was thinking. His expression darkened, which confused Rong’er.
Have I said something wrong, she wondered. He looks like he wants to break something.
Rong’er fell silent. After a moment, she added with feign nonchalance, “It’ll be good if you can participate. The tournament is a great event that is held only once every year. Heroes and brave warriors came from all around the country to participate. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.”
Before Jun Huang could accept her offer, Nan Xun pulled at Jun Huang’s sleeve and gave her a sharp look. Jun Huang turned to him with questioning eyes. She swallowed down her answer, the gears in her head turning.
“It’s late,” said Nan Xun. “It’s been a long day. If Rong’er intends to stay outside for a little longer, this gentleman is afraid we’ll have to excuse ourselves. Farewell.” He dragged Jun Huang away without waiting for Rong’er to answer.
Neither of them talked on their way back to the inn. Nan Xun had kept up a stoic face. Jun Huang wondered why he was angry. Deep inside her heart she might have an inkling of the reason, but she didn’t let herself follow that train of thought.
She was rarely rational when it came to Jun Hao and Yin Yun. When they returned to their room, Jun Huang turned to Nan Xun with a puzzled expression. Nan Xun’s anger flared up seeing her indifference, but he kept his temper in check and refrained from lashing out at her.
Silence stretched. Finally, Nan Xun put aside his ire and said, “You must not participate in the tournament.”
“Why not? Do you think I won’t be able to beat those novices?” Jun Huang felt a little frustrated by Nan Xun’s lack of confidence in her ability. She was trained by Nan Xun! She could put up a fight against those people.
Nan Xun sighed and said tiredly, “You know full well what I meant. You don’t have to throw your temper like that. Why must you put yourself in danger?”
Jun Huang looked down at the floor. “I’m not,” she said, looking up at Nan Xun with distant eyes. “I will not let any opportunity to find my brother slip by. Rong’er is right. If I can gain fame through the tournament, they will know where I am. They will come look for me, and this won’t be a one-sided search.”
“I know you’re worried,” Jun Huang said, carefully pronouncing every word. Her meaningful gaze made it difficult to not be swayed by her. “But I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to push myself.”
Nan Xun didn’t immediately respond. He wasn’t swayed at all by Jun Huang. He was a general. When he was stationed at the border, many of his enemies had tried to buy his cooperation with beautiful women. Those women were seductive, and they knew how to manipulate men’s feelings. Nan Xun, though, never strayed from his goal.
Even though he didn’t want to make Jun Huang unhappy, he knew this wasn’t something Jun Huang should be stubborn about.
Nan Xun took a deep breath and said, “If you insist, I should be the one to participate for you.”
“No, you can’t,” Jun Huang said without hesitation, her eyes fixed on Nan Xun, unblinking.
“Why not?” asked Nan Xun.
Jun Huang was quiet for a moment. “You are a famous Northern Qi general. You’ve been fighting at the border. Everyone in this country knows who you are. If you fight this battle for me, and the news reach the emperor’s ears, how are you going to explain yourself? Have you forgotten that members of the court must not get involved in the martial arts world? Besides, I want to attend because Yin Yun would know it is me if he hears the name Feng Baiyu, but you…They don’t know you’re with me. You’re going to attract only troubles.”
Nan Xun stared at her. Jun Huang was right, and her head was clear. There was no flaw to her logic.
Jun Huang had her reasons. Feng Baiyu meant Phoenix when the characters were combined, and it was the alias she had used before whenever she snuck out of the palace. Others might not know it was her, but Yin Yun would. He would recognize her immediately. That was why she wanted to participate in the tournament.
Nan Xun still thought Jun Huang was too stubborn for her own good. She was putting herself at risk!
“Do you know what’s going to happen? Have you thought about the possibility that they may not be able to find you?”
“Of course I do,” Jun Huang said. “Yin Yun is careful. Even if I’ve left the breadcrumbs, he won’t take action immediately. He isn’t going to risk Jun Hao’s life unless he’s absolutely sure it is me.”
Nan Xun’s eyebrows knitted together. “Then why do you insist on doing this?”
“Because Yin Yun will know that I’m alive, and that’s enough for me,” Jun Huang said after a pause. “They must be worried not being able to find me.”
Nan Xun fell quiet. He finally understood what Jun Huang was thinking. He shouldn’t have assumed what Jun Huang’s intentions were. Jun Huang always had a plan. She never did anything without considering her options.
Nan Xun still thought it was too dangerous, but he knew Jun Huang wasn’t going to be easily swayed. He needed some good arguments to convince Jun Huang not to participate in the tournament.
He had some idea. It was going to be painful, and he didn’t want to use that against Jun Huang, but he had to. Otherwise Jun Huang would get into the tournament without a care about her own safety. He wouldn’t be able to protect her then.
“Have you forgotten about your condition?” asked Nan Xun. A trace of hurt snuck into his tone. He was reminding both Jun Huang and himself that Jun Huang was stilled plagued by potent poison. Her days were numbered.
Jun Huang was caught off guard by Nan Xun’s question. She had been so busy trying to find Jun Hao that she forgot about her health. Every day, she ran herself until she was exhausted, and she didn’t so much fall asleep than lose conscious when she lay down on the bed. Now that she was reminded of her condition, her chest ached a little.
“Your body is not at its best condition, and a fight is the worst thing you can do to your body. Do you know what’s the most painful feeling in the world? It’s to lose something you’ve just recovered. Are you willing to subject your brother to the pain? Do you want him and Yin Yun to find you but then lose you to the poison… to witness your death? He’s young. How is he going to take it? Have you thought about that?”
Nan Xun forced himself to finish his explanation. Many times, he had wanted to stop, but he knew he must be brutally honest for Jun Huang to see his points. The rest he would worry about later.
Jun Huang stared at Nan Xun dumbly. A thunderstorm had happened in her head. Her aching heart threatened to break down and force blood out of her mouth.
She tightened her jaw, her face pale. In panic, Nan Xun rushed to her side and knelt down, looking up at her. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said quietly. “We both know what’s going to happen. Something is inevitable. I know you’re worried, but there are things we must think through. Don’t let yourself regret it.”
Jun Huang knew the pros and cons of her decision. It took a moment for her to recover from her emotions. She pulled her lips into a faint smile and looked into the distance with unfocused eyes. “You’re right,” she said, letting out a tired sigh. “I’ve been too stubborn. I’ve forgotten that things are different from when I was in Western Que. If I continue like this, I won’t be able to stay with him for long even if I find him.”
“Don’t say that. There will be a way out. I promise that I will do all I can to cleanse the poison in your body.” Nan Xun had spoken slowly, but his determination was clear in his tone. His words were like a warm blanket wrapping around her heart, chasing away the coldness in her body.
Seeing her lost expression, Nan Xun knew she was thinking herself into a dead end again. He took Jun Huang’s cold hands and said gently, “You don’t have to worry too much. I’ll have my people look for your brother. They will find something. You have to keep yourself safe. That’s the biggest comfort you can give to them. Even when you haven’t heard from them, you believe that they are still alive. They are the same. They must believe you’re alive as well. That’s good. That’s better than having them find you and worry about your life after finding out that you’ve been poisoned. This hope will keep them strong.”
Jun Huang nodded and took a deep breath. “I understand now,” she said with a smile. “I’m not going to argue with you anymore.”
Nan Xun felt a weight lifted from his shoulders. Finally he had persuaded Jun Huang. Thinking back to Rong’er’s words, however, she must have expected Jun Huang to be at the tournament. He said, “We should tell Rong’er and thank her for her offer.”