Chapter 196: Lasting Sorrow
Nan Xun hurriedly picked Jun Huang up and rushed toward the manor. One of his shadow guards followed after him with the wheelchair in tow, but he ended up losing track of Nan Xun because he was moving too quickly.
Nan Xun brought Jun Huang back to his manor and sent for a doctor. The doctor did not dare to treat this job lightly. He followed the servant to the manor. When he entered the room, Jun Huang was curling into herself with her fingers clutching at her knees as if that would stop the pain.
“Please let go, gentleman Feng,” said the doctor.
Jun Huang looked up at the doctor, then turned to Nan Xun. She tightened her jaw before letting go of her knees. The doctor took the opportunity to check over her. Nan Xun could only stand by and watch. What he wouldn’t give to be a medical expert himself.
“How is it?” Nan Xun asked as soon as the doctor finished checking Jun Huang.
“It’s simply a case of body being affected by the cold chill. The prickling pain comes from the joints. He’ll feel better once I let out the tainted blood from his knees.” The doctor opened his medical kit and took out a silver needle.
Jun Huang had been through countless tortures, but this time, the pain came from within her bones and joints, which made it unbearable. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to distract herself from the pain. When the needle buried into her knee, she was relieved. The pain was slowly fading.
Nan Xun stared at Jun Huang’s knees without blinking. In and out the needle went, leaving several puncture wounds to let out the tainted blood. Afterwards, the doctor applied a medicine to stop the bleeding. That was the end of the treatment.
Jun Huang had recovered her composure, and her tense muscles finally relaxed. She let out a long breath and opened her eyes. Her face was still pale, but her knees felt a lot better. She sat up with Nan Xun help and smiled at the doctor. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll prescribe you some medicine. The gentleman will be able to recover after taking it.” The doctor sorted through his medical kit for his writing brush and ink to write down the prescription. Nan Xun was worried that something might go wrong again. He stayed by Jun Huang’s side.
Once the doctor finished writing, Nan Xun made sure to ask the doctor what possible side effects he should expect. Then he ordered a servant to retrieve the ingredients for the medicine.
Jun Huang was moved by his attentiveness, but she didn’t let it show. It wasn’t long until she fell asleep leaning against the bed frame. She was exhausted.
Nan Xun came back into the room after walking the doctor out. Jun Huang was sound asleep with a peaceful expression. He gingerly helped her lie down and tucked her in before leaving.
After days of resting, Jun Huang was feeling much better. She was satisfied with her life in Nan Xun’s manor. Her collapse had made Nan Xun even more protective of her. He didn’t let Jun Huang read the records made by the House of Heavenly Friends as he had before. He was worried that she would exhaust herself and fell ill again. Instead, he read through the records for her in his study even though it went against his nature as a general. He had to shoulder some of the burden to prevent Jun Huang from pushing herself.
It was the day of Wan’er’s wedding. Jun Huang woke up at the crack of dawn and went through her morning routine. She stared at her reflection in the bronze mirror. A young man with white teeth and red lips stared back at her. She touched her hollowed cheek. She was starting to forget how she looked as a woman. She spent a long time in men’s clothes. Today, there seemed to be a masculine edge to herself, which she wasn’t averse to. Sometimes, she hoped that she was a real man. Then things would have been a lot less complicated.
Hearing that Jun Huang had woken up, Nan Xun hurried to her room. He frowned at her as she stared at the mirror. “What’s wrong?”
Jun Huang broke out of her trance and turned to him. “Nothing.” She pulled her lips into a faint smile and lowered her eyes. “I’m just wondering if I look ready for Princess Wan’er’s wedding.”
Nan Xun knew that Jun Huang wasn’t telling the truth. She had attended Qi Chen’s wedding twice. She must know how to dress herself for the occasion. If Jun Huang didn’t want to tell him, however, he wasn’t going to force her to open up. Everyone had their secrets.
“Of course you’re ready,” Nan Xun said with a laugh, trying to lighten up the mood. “It’s no secret that you’re handsome. You look like you’re going to steal Wan’er away from Zhang Yuan at the wedding.”
Jun Huang chuckled and smiled at him. “Your Highness is too kind.”
“Are you going out now?”
Jun Huang nodded. Her knees were wobbling again. She let out a long breath and got on the wheelchair after some struggle. She looked up at Nan Xun. “I was going to go myself, but you’re awake now. If you have the time, can you take me to the princess manor?”
Nan Xun didn’t know what Jun Huang was going to do, but he nodded anyway. As a princess, Wan’er had moved into the princess manor to avoid troubles before the wedding. She would wait for Zhang Yuan to lead her out of the manor.
It was still early. Only a couple pedestrians walked the street. The air was cool and wet. In Northern Qi, it was usually humid at dawn even in summer. Jun Huang and Nan Xun could both feel their clothes sticking to their bodies because of the humidity. The chilling wind swept through them.
Even Nan Xun was feeling a little cold. He knew Jun Huang must be as well. He took a robe from his shadow guard and put it over her shoulders. His movement was gentle and his eyes tender.
By the street, the owner of a steamed buns shop gaped at them.
The early morning light shone on Jun Huang, adding a translucent quality to her turquoise robe. With her wind-tousled hair and faint smile, she looked like a celestial being. Nan Xun, on the other hand, had cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass, but his eyes were bright and tender. His feelings for Jun Huang had softened the hard lines of his face.
It didn’t seem possible for the two of them to exist in a less than peaceful world.
When the shop owner came to his senses, Jun Huang and Nan Xun had long disappeared. He patted himself on the cheek and muttered, “I must have seen the gods. They can’t be one of us.”
He chuckled. He was lucky to witness the celestials visiting the world.
Nan Xun pushed Jun Huang forward at a steady pace. Every once in a while Jun Huang would wrap the robe over her shoulders tighter to guard against the wind. She didn’t say anything on their way to the princess manor.
They soon reached their destination. Wan’er had ordered her servants to let Jun Huang in if she came. The servants therefore didn’t stop Jun Huang and Nan Xun from entering.
Nan Xun left after taking Jun Huang to Wan’er. He knew that Jun Huang wanted to have a private conversation with Wan’er. It wouldn’t be appropriate for him to stay. He waited outside.
Wan’er was sitting before a bronze mirror dressed in a wedding gown with a phoenix cap on her head. Her eyes lit up when she saw Jun Huang. She shot up to her feet. The dangling ornament on her head shook and clinked. The pleasant sound rang in the room.
“The gentleman has surprised me. I...” Her voice was unsteady and her eyes were red. She looked like she was on the brink of crying.
Jun Huang sighed. “Please don’t be like this, princess. You’re going to smear your makeup. This gentleman came only to give you a gift in person. I didn’t mean anything else by this visit.”
She took out the hairpin she bought a few days ago and handed it to Wan’er. Wan’er stared owlishly at the delicate hairpin, her breath hitched. She looked up at Jun Huang.
“When I saw this hairpin, I could tell that it would suit the princess,” said Jun Huang. “This gentleman believes that I owe you a gift for your appreciation. After some contemplation, I settled on this hairpin. I bought it from a shop. I hope the princess won’t find it too crude a gift.”
Wan’er shook her head and took a deep breath to suppress her urge to cry. “Anything the gentleman gives me is a good gift,” she said ruefully. “I’m honored that the gentleman has come to visit me in person. I don’t expect more from you. There must be many people who adore the gentleman, but no regular women can be a good match for you. Wan’er is the only one who has received such a gesture from you, am I not? That’s enough for met.”
Jun Huang didn’t say anything. She knew how women thought, but she had to pretend to not understand Wan’er. That was the smartest thing for her to do.
She exchanged some pleasantries with Wan’er, staying perfectly within the boundaries. Her politeness kept Wan’er at arm’s length. Wan’er stared at her and pretended to not care about her aloof attitude.
Nan Xun entered the room after a while. Jun Huang left with him and went to Zhang Yuan’s manor.
A princess’s wedding was a rare event. Many had come to attend the wedding. At noon, most of the guests had already arrived, causing a clog in Zhang Yuan’s garden.
Jun Huang had been feeling down ever since she left the princess manor. She didn’t want to attend the wedding banquet, but Zhang Yuan invited her earnestly. As somewhat of a friend of his, she shouldn’t turn him away.
She picked a corner and stayed there, watching everyone else like someone watching a play. There was an impassive look on her face. Nan Xun could tell that she wasn’t in a good mood, but he didn’t know why or what he should do to change it.
Zhang Yuan led Wan’er to the manor on a tall horse followed by a sedan chair carried by eight men. They had gone to the palace to greet the emperor and the honored consort. The guests present were composed mainly of courtiers and young men from esteemed families who came for the experience.
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