Chapter 164: Unreasonable
“Agreed,” Jun Huang said with a nod. She got to her feet and fixed her sleeves. They made their way to Rong’er’s room. It didn’t take long for Rong’er to get the door.
Rong’er didn’t notice Jun Huang at first because her eyes snapped to Nan Xun immediately. From Jun Huang and Nan Xun’s expression, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what they were here for.
“Rong’er has invited us out of kindness,” said Jun Huang. “We didn’t want to turn you down. However, I’ve been sick and couldn’t take the strain such competition would cause. For that I apologize.”
Nan Xun interpreted Rong’er’s silence as her being upset. Rong’er struck him as someone who was eager to help. She had not done anything to offend them. Apologetically, Nan Xun said, “Truly sorry for not taking your offer. How about this. The tournament is coming soon. Gentleman Feng and I can stay and watch you fight before leaving. We look forward to you coming out on top.”
If it had been Jun Huang who said those words, Rong’er would have argued. As it was, she didn’t have a word of comeback. She was still disappointed, but before she could say anything, Nan Xun had dragged Jun Huang away, turning his back to her.
The inn was structured like a siheyuan - a courtyard surrounded by buildings on all four sides. The ground floor was the big dining hall. The upper floors were shaped like hollowed circles with rooms lining the hallway. Jun Huang and Nan Xun’s room was right across from Rong’er’s. They needed to walk half a circle to return to their room.
Rong’er’s eyes bore into Jun Huang’s back. Noticing the heated gaze, Jun Huang turned around and their eyes met. She blinked in confusion when she saw the anger in Rong’er’s eyes.
Nan Xun felt a little jealous that Jun Huang kept turning around. He took Jun Huang’s hand and quickened his pace.
Rong’er stared at them until they entered their room and shut the door. Bloody scrapes were left on her palms. Her eyes went dark as hatred grew in her heart. That Feng Baiyu must have been parading Nan Xun around to spite me, she thought. What a shameless man! How dare he keep Nan Xun to himself?
Realization dawned on her. Feng Baiyu must have been one of those sick men who desired other men! Nan Xun must have seen Feng Baiyu only as a friend, oblivious to his sordid thoughts!
Rong’er had made up her mind. She would fight Feng Baiyu in the tournament and taught him a lesson. Then she would tell Feng Baiyu to get the hell away from Nan Xun.
An ugly smile pulled at her lips. She inhaled deeply to suppress her anger and jealousy. Once she was back to her room, she started planning how she should manipulate Feng Baiyu into accepting the challenge.
She knew Nan Xun must not know about this. She didn’t want him to see how petty she could be. Even though she wanted to expose Feng Baiyu for the pretentious man he was in front of Nan Xun, she wasn’t willing to damage her image in Nan Xun’s heart.
Tomorrow, she would make her move.
Early in the morning, Nan Xun took the guards to the street to continue their search. He didn’t want to miss Jun Hao because of his inaction. Seeing how tired Jun Huang had been the past two days, Nan Xun told her to stay in the inn.
Jun Huang was having breakfast on her own in the main hall when Rong’er showed up. She raised an eyebrow at Rong’er. She could feel the hostility radiating from this woman, but she still greeted her politely.
“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re thinking, Feng Baiyu!” Rong’er declared without preamble.
What am I thinking? Jun Huang put down her bowl and chopsticks before letting out a quiet laugh. “What do you mean? Are you still upset that I knocked into you yesterday?”
“Ha! Playing dumb isn’t going to work!” Rong’er spat. “Gentleman Nan Xun isn’t here. Why are you still putting up a front? Do you think I haven’t figured you out yet?”
Jun Huang’s eyebrows jumped up. “What’s the matter? Has this gentleman unknowingly offended you again?”
Rong’er wanted nothing but to tear Jun Huang into pieces, but she knew she must control herself. If she had announced to the whole room that Jun Huang was into men, Nan Xun would be mocked along with Jun Huang. That would be unacceptable.
She took a deep breath to tamp down her anger. Leaning close to Jun Huang, she whispered in a voice that only Jun Huang could hear, “You are into men and yet you shamelessly follow Nan Xun around. Don’t you see how foul you are? Do you know how he will see you if I tell him you desire him?”
Now Jun Huang finally realized why Rong’er came to bother her so early in the morning. She supported her chin with a hand and looked at Rong’er with a smile. “You’re being unreasonable.”
Disgusted by her response, Rong’er backed away like Jun Huang was something repulsive.
“If you have any courage, Feng Baiyu, you would participate in the tournament and fight me. Don’t use those foul tricks.” Rong’er hadn’t been loud, but the other diners were quietly eating and the main hall was almost silent. Everyone heard her. They started whispering among themselves.
Jun Huang got to her feet so that their eyes lined up. She crossed her arms and looked at her coldly. Slowly, enunciating every word, she said, “What if I refuse? What can you do?”
Rong’er flew into rage. This shameless coward! With her self-control out of the window, she exclaimed, “If you don’t have the confidence to fight me, how can you stay at gentleman Nan Xun’s side?”
Jun Huang’s expression darkened. Had her anger come from being taunted by Rong’er’s? Or had it come from her feelings for Nan Xun? Jun Huang wasn’t sure. She let out a sharp laugh and looked Rong’er in the eyes until Rong’er started to doubt herself. Rong’er, however, refused to back down. She took a deep breath and stared back.
“If so, this gentleman will accept your challenge,” Jun Huang said with a smile. “I hope for a good fight.”
Jun Huang’s polite response had won her the approval of the onlookers. Rong’er, on the other hand, was criticized for her insistent attitude.
Rong’er’s face turned red in anger when she heard people’s comments. She ground her teeth together and bit out, “I will defeat you at the tournament! Remember what you’ve said!”
With that, Rong’er stormed away.
Jun Huang knew she herself was in the right. After Rong’er had left, she sat down and started enjoying the pot of tea she had ordered. One cup after another, she stopped until the pot was empty. She looked into the distance. It was difficult to tell what she was thinking.
Nan Xun returned to the inn not long after. Jun Huang felt a little guilty seeing his tired face. She hurriedly poured him a cup of water.
Nan Xun took a gulp. Now he felt better. He looked up at Jun Huang and said in a low voice, “We didn’t find anything today, either. Because of the tournament, there are even more people in the town today. You should stay in unless there’s something important to take care of. It’s too dangerous. Do you hear me?”
Jun Huang was preoccupied with her own thoughts, her fingers rubbing along the rim of the teacup. Nan Xun looked up because of her lack of response. There was a deep frown on her forehead. She was clearly troubled by something.
“Are you still thinking about the tournament?” Nan Xun asked worriedly. Jun Huang’s health had been deteriorating. He wanted to help her, but she always turned him away. There wasn’t much he could do.
“I’ve told Rong’er that I would fight in the tournament,” Jun Huang said. The thought of hiding this from Nan Xun never crossed her mind.
Nan Xun stared at Jun Huang with disbelief in his eyes. His first reaction was that Jun Huang was joking. He had convinced her to not get involved only yesterday, and now she changed her mind? He didn’t know what was going on. Had she forgotten about her condition so quickly? What was she thinking?
Because of Jun Huang’s argument with Rong’er, many people in the main hall had been keeping an eye on Jun Huang. One of the clerks noticed the tension at their table. After some hesitation, he walked up to them.
“The honored guest may have misunderstood. Your friend didn’t want to get into the tournament, but then this girl kept trying to pester him into participating...”
The clerk told Nan Xun everything he had witnessed and added some dramatic flourishes of his own. Some parts of the earlier conversation he had not heard clearly. He assumed that Rong’er must have coerced Jun Huang into accepting her challenge somehow.
Nan Xun stared at Jun Huang, trying to look for signs that Jun Huang was lying, but Jun Huang had nothing to hide.
She drank some tea before muttering, “She was persistent. I didn’t want to participate, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I got tired of arguing with her, so I said yes.”
Nan Xun knew Jun Huang valued her peace of mind. He could picture how forceful Rong’er must have been. He cursed at himself for not being at Jun Huang’s side to deter Rong’er.
He didn’t know that Rong’er had fallen hard for him. Women were more sensitive to matters of the heart. Nan Xun was a general. He rarely paid attention to other people’s feelings, let alone those of someone he didn’t care about.
He resented Rong’er for pushing Jun Huang into danger. What an insolent girl! His chest felt tight in his anger, but he wasn’t going to let Jun Huang take the blame. He fumed with his hand tight around his cup.
When Jun Huang saw that Nan Xun had calmed down, she said, “The tournament is coming in a few days. I haven’t trained at all since leaving the imperial city. I must have gotten rusty. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. Let’s spar?”
“We’ve turned her down yesterday,” Nan Xun said after a moment of silence. “I’ll talk to her later. I can’t in good conscience let you go to that ridiculous tournament.”
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