Chapter 226: Nature’s Comforts
Jun Huang’s mind had quieted down. She got to her feet and steadied herself with a hand on the pillar. Once the wave of dizziness passed, she walked away from the pavilion.
Nan Xun ran up to her when he ran into her and reached out for her hands. Her fingers were cold. He frowned without him realizing it.
Before he could say anything, Jun Huang looked up at him and asked, “Who else know about my identity other than you and Mister Ji Bo?”
Nan Xun thought for a moment before shaking his head. “No one else.”
“Are you sure?” she asked worriedly.
He nodded. Only then did she let out the breath she’d been holding. She rubbed at her forehead and said, “I’m a little tired. I’ll go back to my room first. Please excuse me.” She broke out of his hold and walked away.
He watched her go. He could still feel the texture of her skin at his fingertips. He stood in the garden for a good while before letting out a sigh.
They hadn’t talked about his confession. Nan Xun knew it would take a long time for Jun Huang to accept him. He had to first encourage her to acknowledge her own feelings and to allow herself the freedom to think about things other than revenge.
The fight between Northern Qi and Eastern Wu had ended for the time being. Eastern Wu dared not make a move at the moment. Qi Chen wouldn’t do anything to sabotage his opportunity to get on Nan Xun’s good side. He must be looking for an opening still.
Nan Xun wasn’t going to stand idle and let Jun Huang run away from him. He left for the palace and ask the emperor for a day off before going straight to the crown prince’s manor.
Qi Chen was surprised by his visit. He hurriedly told a servant to walk Nan Xun in.
He walked up to Nan Xun and cupped his hands in greeting. “I didn’t know royal brother would come. Please forgive me for not giving you a formal welcome.”
Nan Xun threw him a glance. He cupped his hands politely and explained what he was here for. “The battle with Eastern Wu had kept us busy. Now there’s finally some free time. I’ll like to take a short trip. Are you willing to let Gentleman Feng come with me?”
Qi Chen paused, listing the pros and cons in his head. Nan Xun had visited him personally as a show of respect. With all the rumors floating around, he himself was convinced that Nan Xun and Jun Huang were involved. This would be a good opportunity for him to earn a favor from Nan Xun. There was no reason for him to say no.
He smiled. “Of course. However, Brother Feng is prone to illness. Please take care of him, royal brother.”
Nan Xun’s lips quirked up. “Of course. We aren’t going anywhere too far. I’m only taking him to regions around the imperial city. Now, please excuse me.” He rose and walked away without stopping.
Qi Chen didn’t try to keep him. He walked Nan Xun to the door and watched him go. A coy smile tugged at Qi Chen’s lips. He sent a message to Jun Huang telling her to use the opportunity to get closer to Nan Xun.
Jun Huang got the message before Nan Xun returned to his manor. She was exasperated, but also moved. She didn’t know how to describe this feeling filling her chest. Her lips curved into a smile without her noticing.
She simply nodded when Nan Xun told her about the trip. He knew what she was thinking. He didn’t care if Qi Chen had given her any orders. He arranged this trip to let her relax and get used to his care. There was nothing to worry about.
“We’re just relieving some stress. Don’t feel pressured and don’t think too much. You’ve worked too hard recently. I’m worried about your health. That’s why...”
“I know your concerns,” she cut in, her lips curved into a smile and her calm eyes darted to him. “I won’t think too much. You don’t have to explain. Thank you.”
Nan Xun’s heart skipped a beat. He wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms, but he managed to stop himself. Before his confession, he would just do it. The worst that could happen was for Jun Huang to call him shameless. Now it was different. He’d confessed his feelings. If he crossed the line between friendship and love, he didn’t know what she would do.
Jun Huang couldn’t read his mind. She cleared her throat and turned away, feeling awkward because of his attention. Nan Xun turned away in embarrassment too. It was inappropriate for him to stare at her.
They remained silent for a good while, filling the room with an awkward air.
“When are we leaving?” Jun Huang finally asked.
“Tomorrow morning,” Nan Xun rushed out. “I’ve prepared the coach. You only have to bring some clothes.”
She pretended to not notice his mortification and nodded. “If so, we should go rest. It’s getting late now. We don’t want to leave with a tired body.”
Nan Xun nodded and left.
The next morning, Nan Xun rose early and had servants prepare the coach. When Jun Huang woke up, he had already finished with the preparation. After having breakfast, they left the imperial city.
They didn’t have a set destination in mind. This was a vacation. Nan Xun took with him only two shadow guards to ensure their safety. Jun Huang leaned against the window of the coach, watching the green mountain and turquoise river. Her heart settled down gradually.
Northern Qi was home to many magnificent landscapes. She had been too busy to appreciate the nature since she came to the country; seeing the landmarks with her own eyes made her heart pound.
Nan Xun sat on her side and watched her. The tender expression on his face was polar opposite to his usual stoic face.
“How long are we staying for?” Feeling his gaze on her, she coughed and turned around.
Nan Xun thought for a moment and shook his head. “This is a break for you. I don’t have a plan as to how long we’ll stay out. I’ve made the arrangements in imperial city so that my people will notify me should something happen. Don’t worry too much. We’ll go through the different spots before we return.”
Jun Huang curled her lips and chuckled. “That’ll be good.”
Nan Xun nodded. Noticing that her cup was empty, he quickly refilled it. She readily took the cup from him and took a sip before going back to staring outside the window.
Nan Xun sighed in relief. Thank god she didn’t cut ties with him like he imagined she would. He counted that as a win.
The coach moved slowly. Nan Xun knew she wasn’t used to the feeling, so he told the rider to be slow and try to minimize the shaking. She was therefore able to put her focus on the scenery. Many things she saw piqued her interests.
When she was in Western Que, she had to sneak out if she wanted to leave the palace. There was very little thing for her to do. She had only wandered around the imperial city of Western Que and never gone far from home.
After she came to Northern Qi, she had no time for anything other than manipulating the political order to her advantage. She couldn’t help being transfixed by the scenery now.
Three hours passed. Jun Huang’s eyes lit up suddenly and she told the rider to stop. Before anyone could react, she got off the coach. Nan Xun quickly followed her.
A sea of flowers bloomed before her as butterflies danced in the air. There was a clear river with pebbles covering the bottom. People often said that the clearest water is no home to fish, but she saw fish of different sizes swimming about in the water. A gentle smile appeared on her face.
Nan Xun turned to her. The sun poured gold onto her turquoise robe. Her dark hair dropped down to her side as she bent down. He could see her reflection in the water. At that moment, Jun Huang was no different from any other woman at her age.
She stared at the water, fascinated. Nan Xun wondered how long she was going to keep staring. He walked up to her, intending to call out for her.
Deep in trance, she failed to notice his approach. Only when he put his hand on her shoulder did she come to her senses. She stumbled and almost fell into the water. Fortunately Nan Xun was there to catch her. His arms circled around her waist.
“We should keep going,” Nan Xun said with a smile, imprinting her embarrassed look into his memory.
Jun Huang nodded and walked away from the creek with his help. She pulled away. Her expression reverted back to her usual calmness, as if all that had happened had been an illusion.
She turned back to look at him after a few steps. Nan Xun was standing as still as a statue. “Aren’t we in a hurry?”
Nan Xun jerked awake and joined her. They went back to the coach side by side.
They left for a city not far from the imperial city. It was known for its architecture and a lake within the woods.
The sun was setting when they arrived at the city. Nan Xun took Jun Huang to an unassuming but clean inn. They ate and went back to their respective room. He told her to have a good rest. They would go out tomorrow.
The travel had exhausted her. She nodded and returned to her room. However, she couldn’t fall asleep no matter what.
Every little gesture Nan Xun made revealed his feelings for her. His care and attention had become part of her daily life without her realizing. They had a good time today, but she felt a little uneasy.
She didn’t know where the feeling came from.
She fell asleep after midnight.
The next few days, she walked around the city with Nan Xun. The city was close to the imperial city, but it had its own unique charm. She’d gotten used to the luxurious imperial city. It was a good change of pace to appreciate the nature here.
Nan Xun’s attentiveness won over her trust little by little. Before she realized it, she had gotten used to his company. She sighed. Could she even live without him now?
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