Chapter 165: Stubborn
“What if I insisted on participating?” Jun Huang asked, tilting her head to meet his gaze. There was no trace of doubt in her eyes.
Nan Xun’s tone hardened in response to her stubborn reaction. “Do you know what kind of tournament this is? It’s where masters of martial arts fight to earn their glory. Even if we put aside your limited training, your health condition alone is going to put you in great danger. You’re going to get hurt without gaining the benefit of spreading your name.”
Jun Huang didn’t want to make Nan Xun worried, but she had made up her mind. She had to fight Rong’er fair and square. “I’ve given her my word. I can’t just take it back. If you’re not willing to train me, then so be it.”
She got to her feet and walked past Nan Xun to go upstairs.
Nan Xun couldn’t stand being subject to her cold gaze. He took a deep breath and caught Jun Huang’s wrist. Reluctantly, he said, “I’ll train you.”
They made their way to the backyard of the inn and notified a clerk what they were going to do. The clerk gladly took the silver Nan Xun awarded him and left them alone.
From the first floor, Rong’er watched the two of them train with swords. She ground her teeth together and tightened her fists, barely suppressing her anger. She would not let Jun Huang off the hook easily! Now she only had to wait for the tournament to come.
Jun Huang had made some progress after a day of training, but the worried look never dropped from Nan Xun’s face. At night, Jun Huang had retired to bed early out of exhaustion. Nan Xun left the room after some consideration and knocked on Rong’er’s door.
Rong’er was glad to see Nan Xun, but she could tell that Nan Xun was here to demand answers from her. She opened her mouth, at a loss of what to say.
“I thought you were a brave heroine who could rival any men, and I planned to watch you fight on stage to show everyone what you you could do. However, it turns out you are simply a spoiled girl. Now I feel no desire to even look at you.”
Nan Xun had been fuming the whole day, but he couldn’t vent his anger on Jun Huang. Now all his ire was aimed at Rong’er. He considered Rong’er to be an unreasonable and unpleasant woman.
Rong’er took a deep breath and retorted, “What is the gentleman saying? Feng Baiyu is a man. If even I, a woman, can participate in the tournament, why can’t he? Besides, he agreed to participate himself. Has he said something that made you think I deserve such reprimand?”
Her tone was dignified, but under her sleeves, her fists were tight and her nails had buried into her palms.
Nan Xun frowned. He didn’t expect Rong’er to be this blind to her own wrongdoings. He stormed away with a whip of his sleeves. Rong’er let out a sigh of relief.
For the next few days, Rong’er had not seen Nan Xun and Jun Huang even once. Her sect had been busy in preparation for the upcoming tournament as well. She worriedly waited for the tournament to come.
On the day of the tournament, many more people had gathered in Yun Town. The sound of gongs and drums announced the occasion before the sun even rose above the horizon. Nan Xun had woken up early. With a faint smile, he let out a resigned sigh as he looked at the still sleeping Jun Huang. He truly did not know how to deny her anything.
He silently got off the bed and turned to look at her face. They had trained a little longer yesterday. Thus, her sleep had been particularly unrestful last night. Her face was an unhealthy color.
Silence stretched. Nan Xun walked out of the room and asked the clerks to prepare a bowl of congee. As he had done before, he added the medicine into the bowl and brought it back to their room.
When Jun Huang woke up, Nan Xun was entering the room a bowl of congee in his hand. She felt warmth welled up in her chest, but she didn’t let it show. She still believed that she must not give Nan Xun any false hope. She was never meant to be his.
Jun Huang snorted silently. She kept her distance from Nan Xun because of her condition, and yet she could not tolerate hearing others criticize Nan Xun. Otherwise she wouldn’t have fallen into Rong’er’s trap and gotten herself into this mess. Fortunately, Nan Xun didn’t know exactly what had happened that morning.
Nan Xun put the bowl on the table and came up to Jun Huang’s side. “What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly. “Are you feeling alright?”
Jun Huang shook away her unnecessary thoughts and let out a long breath. She got to her feet, massaging her throbbing temple.
“Don’t go to the tournament if you are unwell,” Nan Xun said with his eyebrows furrowed.
Jun Huang waved a hand dismissively and got herself presentable before taking a seat at the table. She tucked into the congee. Nan Xun knew that there was nothing he could say to change her mind. He silently waited for Jun Huang to finish eating.
Afterwards, they made their way to the location where the tournament was held.
The day had just broken. The stage was surrounded by a sizable crowd. Masters of martial arts were going to test their ability against one another later; the regular peasants therefore kept a safe distance from the stage even though they were curious. They didn’t want to get hurt by the participants in the heat of the moment.
Those staying in the inner circle were mostly trained fighters. Of course, there were a few stray regular peasants at the front as well. They had let their curiosity put them in danger.
To the front of the stage was for the audience to watch the fight from. To the left was for esteemed figures in the martial arts world who was going to preside over the tournament. Right across from them were the participants. There was a good number of them.
Jun Huang and Nan Xun had spotted Rong’er from the distance when they arrived at the West Street, which was where the tournament was held. Today, Rong’er was dressed in a pink fighting garment. She looked different. On her waist she wore the emblem of her sect. She stood with her senior brothers and sisters. With them as comparisons, she stood out due to her good looks.
Rong’er had been looking around, worried that Jun Huang wouldn’t show up. She relaxed when she saw Jun Huang and Nan Xun coming this way, smiling and chatting together.
One of her senior sisters followed her gaze and saw the graceful and handsome Jun Huang. She didn’t know what kind of men Rong’er liked. She assumed that Rong’er had a preference for the gentle type, and that Rong’er had set her eyes on Jun Huang. “Oh, has little sister fallen for a pretty face?” she teased. “That’s understandable. He is very good-looking.”
Rong’er didn’t immediately react. As soon as she figured out who her senior sister was talking about, her face distorted as if she had swallowed a fly. “Why would I like a weakling like that man?” she bit out. “I like the handsome and brave one.”
Her senior sister looked again and turned her gaze to Nan Xun. Nan Xun was dressed in a black robe, which accentuated the sculpted contour of his face. He posed a demanding presence. In his sharp eyes, there was a trace of tenderness, but she could tell that the tenderness was reserved for the beautiful man in turquoise robe. It couldn’t be -
She turned to Rong’er reflexively. For a fleeting moment, Rong’er seemed like a beast eager to tear its teeth into its prey, but the moment passed in the blink of an eye. Rong’er’s expression became so calm it was as if she was a different person.
Jun Huang had spotted Rong’er as well. She curved her lips into a faint smile. Rong’er tightened her hands into fists, her eyes shooting daggers at Jun Huang.
Nan Xun turned to Rong’er as well, but he looked away as soon as he saw that it was Rong’er. He wasn’t going to waste any of his time on her.
Nan Xun’s ignorance convinced Rong’er that Jun Huang must have been talking behind her back. That was why Nan Xun was so cold to her.
“Remember my words,” Nan Xun said before Jun Huang took to the stage. “Don’t push yourself if you are feeling unwell. Come back to me.”
“I know, I know.” Jun huang nodded with a smile. “You’ve said that many times on our way here. I remember. Don’t worry.”
Nan Xun was still worried despite her reassurance, but there was no time for him to repeat his words again. The fight had begun. It was Jun Huang’s turn.
She boldly walked onto the stage with her head held high. The audience was shocked to see Jun Huang. What a beautiful man!
Jun Huang stood at the center of the stage with a sword in her hand, paying no attention to the way wind messed up her hair.
Her opponent was a thin boy. He stretched his arms when he took the stage and lifted his chin at Jun Huang. “This is a competition for real men,” he said mockingly. “People like you should stay at home being pampered and spoiled. You’re only going to make a fool of yourself. No one will go easy on your just because you have a pretty face.”
The boy burst into laughter. The crowd followed suit and started laughing as well.
Jun Huang didn’t get angry like the boy expected. Her expression remained calm as she waited for the commotion to die down. She looked up at the boy and smiled. “Everyone can talk the talk, but dogs that bark often don’t bite. I wonder if the gentleman knows how to bite?”
Her voice was soft, but it reached everyone in the audience. After a moment of shock, they broke into a thunderous ovation. The boy’s face flushed a deep red. He drew his sword and charged at Jun Huang without thinking.
With a scoff, Jun Huang blocked his attack with her sword. After exchanging a few strikes with the boy, she realized that the boy was a novice and shouldn’t be in a formal fight like this. She didn’t want to drag this on, but she didn’t want to hurt the boy, either. With a twirl of her fingers, the tip of her sword came to touch the boy’s throat without breaking the skin.
Clink! The boy dropped his sword in fear.
“Spare - spare me!” the boy stammered out, his knees going weak and his face pale. He was frightened that Jun Huang would take his life. It would take only a little push.
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