Chapter 167: Mockery
Tension drained out of Nan Xun’s body when he heard the doctor’s response. It pained him to see Jun Huang lying on the bed with her face pale. He smoothed a finger gently over her furrowed brows and caress her bony cheek, lovingly watching over her.
“You have to recover, Jun Huang,” Nan Xun muttered, holding onto her fingers. Due to her illness, Jun Huang’s fingers were always cold, and her delicate wrists looked brittle.
Jun Huang lay on the bed like she had fallen into a deep slumber that she might not wake up from. Nan Xun had panicked when Jun Huang collapsed, but he was able to regain control over his emotions. He had stared death in the eyes many times after all.
He sat by Jun Huang’s bed, holding her hand in his. He told the guards he didn’t feel like eating when they asked.
At night, Jun Huang still had not shown any signs of waking up, which worried Nan Xun. He checked her pulse a few times and only relaxed when he felt her strong heartbeats. After midnight, he fell asleep sitting by the bed, laying on his arms.
Day broke. Jun Huang’s eyes fluttered open. She was going to stretch her numb arms, but her hands was held hostage, preventing her from moving. She looked down and saw Nan Xun sleeping with her wrists in a loose grip.
A soft smile tugged at her lips, unbidden. Then Nan Xun’s fingers twitched and he jerked awake. His heart soared in delight seeing that Jun Huang had regained consciousness. He hurriedly poured her a cup of water.
He handed Jun Huang the cup and asked, “Do you feel better now?”
Jun Huang nodded and sat up with Nan Xun’s help. She had recovered, but there was still a heavy weight on her chest, preventing her from breathing properly. Although she had regained her usual composure, she still looked a little ill.
Jun Huang drank the water and looked outside. “How long have I been sleeping?”
“The whole day,” said Nan Xun as he took the empty cup from Jun Huang and placed it on the table.
A silent pause. Jun Huang was trying to find the right words. “Yesterday - ”
“Now you remind me,” Nan Xun scolded. “You never take care of yourself! Do you know how much danger you were in yesterday? I told you again and again not to push yourself, but you? You never listened! None of the things I said mattered to you! Just what are you trying to prove?!”
Nan Xun hadn’t intended to say anything about what happened yesterday, but Jun Huang brought it up as soon as she woke up. He couldn’t help the words falling out of his mouth.
Jun Huang didn’t expect Nan Xun to react so strongly. She looked up at him with cool eyes and said, “There’s no need for you to dwell on it. I’m alright.”
“You’re alright now, but that’s because you got lucky! If things went even a little differently, you wouldn’t have been here, alive and well! Remember your goals, Jun Huang. If you insist on being careless with yourself, this prince doesn’t think there’s a need for us to work together anymore. Then the gentleman better find another ally.”
Nan Xun had never been this harsh with her. He turned away from her with his arms behind his back and, for the first time since they’d known each other, talked to her as a prince. His words were polite but distant, and his expression was severe.
He’s getting tired of me, Jun Huang thought. Her breath hitched and she tried to get up. Yesterday’s injury, though, had drained her of any energy. She kept falling back to the bed, which Nan Xun was oblivious to since he had turned away.
A thud. Nan Xun whirled around and saw half of Jun Huang’s body falling off the bed. She had scraped her palms again. He couldn’t possibly keep his distance anymore. He quickly knelt down to help Jun Huang up.
With an aching heart, Nan Xun put her back on the bed and snapped, “Do you really think you’re made of steel? Why must you risk yourself again and again? Are you willing to die for something that you aren’t even sure is going to happen?‘
Jun Huang lay against Nan Xun’s chest and looked up at him as he rattled out her sins. She pulled her lips into a smile and took a deep breath. “I know, I know. I didn’t attend the tournament only because of Rong’er’s taunt. I - had a dream a few days ago. A nightmare. I cannot be the only one looking for my brother at the moment. Eastern Wu must be right at his heels as well. They would use him as a hostage. With their ambition, I cannot imagine how they will treat Jun Hao if he falls into their hands.”
“And I was worried that they would venture into Eastern Wu thinking I’ve been caught. They would get hurt. I - how can I let them risk themselves?” Jun Huang looked up at Nan Xun. This was her being as open as she had ever been.
Nan Xun knew that she had a point. Jun Huang had been risking everything to track her brother and Yin Yun down. They must have been doing everything they could to look for Jun Huang as well. If they couldn’t find her in Northern Qi, it was very likely for them to go to Eastern Wu.
Nan Xun had never met Jun Hao and Yin Yun. He didn’t feel a connection to them. However, he knew that Jun Huang wouldn’t be able to rest easy until she found them. If Jun Hao and Yin Yun had been caught by Eastern Wu, they would use them to force Jun Huang to surrender herself. Jun Huang would never let anyone hurt Jun Hao. She would willingly turn herself in.
He was even more worried that Eastern Wu might claim to have Jun Hao to lure Jun Huang in. Without knowing where Jun Hao and Yin Yun were, Jun Huang would risk herself to find out if the information was legitimate.
Jun Hao was Jun Huang’s weakness. She would kill herself trying to find him. In her condition, she really shouldn’t be pushing herself to this point.
Nan Xun patted her head and sighed. “Leave this to me, hm? I will find your brother and return him to you in one piece. You only have to wait.”
Jun Huang nodded, her heart fluttering. “Alright.”
“But you have to recover first,” Nan Xun said. “Don’t be so reckless again. I’m here. You can trust me. After all… we are allies.”
Jun Huang nodded again. She knew Nan Xun only said so because he didn’t want to pressure her.
They sat on the bed silently. Nan Xun took a handkerchief and dabbed it in water to clean the scrapes on Jun Huang’s hand. Those scrapes were shallow. The sting was nothing compared to the pain brought by the poison. Seeing how careful Nan Xun was being, a smile bloomed on Jun Huang’s face without her realizing.
Nan Xun felt a little shy when he looked up and saw Jun Huang’s smile. He let go of Jun Huang and got to his feet. What was he going to do again?
Jun Huang covered up her smile and looked up at him. Nan Xun would have looked away, but he suddenly didn’t feel like avoiding her gaze. He met her eyes.
Someone knocked on the door, breaking the moment. Nan Xun frowned and opened it.
The clerk was right outside. He smiled when he saw that Jun Huang had woken up. “Do the gentlemen prefer to have your breakfast in the room, or in the dining hall?”
Before Nan Xun could tell the clerk to bring the food to the room, Jun Huang said, “Let’s eat downstairs. I’m alright now.”
Nan Xun could tell that she didn’t want to stay in the room. She did look better now. He nodded and went downstairs with Jun Huang.
Jun Huang settled down and tried the bowl of congee placed on the table. She didn’t taste the medicine this time. With a frown, she turned to Nan Xun.
Nan Xun hadn’t realized that Jun Huang knew about the medicine. Puzzled by her reaction, he put down his chopsticks and asked, “What’s wrong? You don’t like the food?”
“Nothing.” Jun Huang quickly came up with an excuse. “I just thought that the congee could be cooked for a little longer.”
She didn’t meant anything by it, but Nan Xun took it seriously and tried some as well. He frowned. It did taste a little undercooked. He was going to call out for the clerk, but Jun Huang stopped him.
Rong’er walked down the stairs. Her eyes lit up when she saw Nan Xun and went cold when they landed on Jun Huang. She walked up to them with a bright smile. “What a coincidence! We run into each other even at breakfast!”
Jun Huang didn’t look up at Rong’er. To hell with the proper etiquette. Nan Xun, on the other hand, shot Rong’er a frosty glare. Anyone sane would have trembled and fell silent under his gaze.
Rong’er, however, was both recklessly bold and unusually blind to the situation she was in. She lost her sense of reality as soon as Nan Xun turned to her. She looked at him with her face flushed.
Their silence filled the room with tension. Rong’er waved a clerk over and said, “We all know one another. Bring my breakfast to this table too.”
Before the clerk could say anything, Nan Xun cut in, “That may be inappropriate. Aren’t you a little too good for us? Why force yourself to stay with us regular people? There are a lot of empty seats in this room. We don’t need another companion. Please look for another spot.”
Nan Xun’s voice rang through the entire dining hall. Rong’er flushed red in mortification. She didn’t know what to do. Without thinking, she turned to Jun Huang, who gave her a brief glance before going back to her undercooked congee.
Rong’er tightened her jaw. She quickly put on a fake smile and took a deep breath. “Why must you treat me like this? Rong’er remember the gentleman showing me hospitality only a few days ago, and yet you treat me so harshly today. What have I done to offend the gentleman?”
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