Nan Xun frowned. He was bothered by Jun Huang’s response, but she seemed set on her decision. He knew there was nothing he could say to change that. He’d have to try something else in order to stay with her.
Jun Huang relaxed when Nan Xun didn’t say anything. She made her way to the bedroom she’d been staying in and packed up. Once she was done and opened the door, though, Nan Xun was right outside with a pack of his own. She looked at him questioningly.
“What are you doing?”
Nan Xun smiled. “I’ve thought about it. Your manor isn’t safe, but it’ll be troublesome to put a group of soldiers to guard it. I’ve talked to my second in command. I don’t have to go to the training ground these couple of days. I’ll go home with you.”
His reasoning was solid. She didn’t have a good comeback. It was unexpected of him to corner her. This was the most shameless he’d been with her, but she found him endearing nonetheless.
She stood there helplessly, unsure of what to do. In the end, she surrendered. It’d be unproductive to keep pushing him away. Since he wouldn’t give up on staying with her, she might as well let him be.
Nan Xun’s smile widened, melting away the coldness in his eyes. Jun Huang took the lead on their way to her manor. They encountered a few familiar faces. Those who were loyal to Qi Chen came up to her to greet her. Those in the third prince’s circle abandoned their plan to mock her when they saw Nan Xun. His status in the court was undeniable.
Jun Huang relaxed when they reached her manor. There was an odd tension in the air on their way here. Nan Xun thought differently. He enjoyed the walk with her. It was something they hadn’t done often.
Little Girl was excited to hear that Jun Huang was coming back. She ordered the servants to clean up the rooms and had the cooks prepare Jun Huang’s favorite food. She herself brewed a pot of fine tea for Jun Huang.
Her hard work was interrupted when someone announced that Jun Huang had returned. She stopped what she was doing and rushed to the door to welcome her.
Jun Huang was happy to see Little Girl, who’d grown more and more beautiful. The girl had been with her for a while, and she was easy to like. Jun Huang had been too busy to come check on her lately. It made her feel a little nostalgic to see how much the girl had changed. She entered the manor with Little Girl on her side.
She was amazed by how much her manor had changed. The fake mountain in the garden between the east wing and the west wing was now connected to a water source. Clear stream rushed down from on top of the mountain. It was a refreshing sight in summertime.
The winding hallway was now hung with a great number of glass lamps. The paintings on the lamps were finely drawn. Jun Huang kept looking up in fascination. She was moved by Little Girl’s gesture.
“You’ve become more mature,” she said with a smile. “Your consideration is endearing.”
Little Girl blushed and threw a glance at Nan Xun, who had been trailing after them silently. “The gentleman has been too kind. I can’t find those items on my own. The prince was the one who bought them. He said that the gentleman liked lamps like those, and it turns out you do. The prince indeed knows you well.”
Jun Huang turned around to look at Nan Xun, who coughed and averted his gaze a little bashfully. A soft smile found its place to her face. She looked at him with gentle eyes. Her turquoise robe fluttered in the wind, accentuating her grace.
“I didn’t know Your Highness was this good at pleasing people,” she said teasingly.
Nan Xun blushed slightly. Under the sun, no one noticed anything unusual about him. The servants thought he was merely feeling warm. They led Nan Xun and Jun Huang to a pavilion for some tea with flowers as their company.
Evening came. The lamps were lit and the sight captivated her even more. She walked along the hallway, looking up at the colorful lamps. She could drown in the vibrant colors.
Nan Xun walked out of the west wing, watching her from a distance. Lamplight covered her in a warm, fuzzy glow. Everything else fell away in contrast to her beauty.
Jun Huang had felt his heated gaze. She lowered her head and turned to him. Her cool eyes sent a thrill down Nan Xun’s spine. He could almost feel it in his bones. He couldn’t let go of that feeling.
“Have the servants prepared a room for you?” Jun Huang asked as she walked up to him.
Nan Xun nodded. “They have.”
They quietly walked in the dark with Jun Huang taking the lead, and Nan Xun a silent shadow behind her.
Little Girl announced that dinner was ready. She asked if they’d like to eat now.
Jun Huang turned to Nan Xun and nodded. They made their way to the main hall and took their seats. Jun Huang had her head and eyes lowered when she ate. She didn’t eat much. Her movement was elegant and mesmerizing. Nan Xun couldn’t help sneaking glances at her. He quickly looked away when she looked up at him.
Afterwards, they walked toward their bedrooms to rest. Nan Xun grabbed her hand and said seriously, “I… hope you aren’t mad at me for what happened in the morning.”
She looked up at him. Under the moonlight, he looked cold and frigid. His tender eyes weren’t enough to soften his forceful presence. She chuckled quietly. “Do you still remember that you’re a general?”
Nan Xun pursed his lips and let go of her hand. “You should go to bed early,” he said wryly. “It’s been some time since you last trained in martial arts. I’ll wake you up tomorrow.”
Jun Huang knew she was pushing everyone away. If Nan Xun hadn’t taken the first step, they’d have been nothing but strangers. He was the war god everyone feared on battlefields, and yet he met her with gentle smiles and surrendered to her will again and again. She would be lying if she said she wasn’t moved. And yet...
She had things she had to do, and her health was getting worse. She didn’t want to be the stumbling block on his path to happiness.
She shook her head and went to her bedroom.
It was summertime. The south wing was adjacent to the garden. The cacophony of frogs chirping and cicadas singing should have been relaxing, but it kept her up at night. She didn’t fall asleep until the nightwatcher hit the gong.
Early in the morning, Nan Xun woke up and went to the south wing. He knocked on the door and pushed it open after he heard the sounds coming from inside. Jun Huang had gotten changed and was washing her face.
“You’re up,” he said with a chuckle. “I thought you’d still be sleeping.”
Jun Huang had woken up properly after splashing water over her face. She turned to him. “You train every morning, and you’ve said last night that we’d train today. I can’t turn you down.”
Her words put an invisible wall between them. He didn’t know what to say when her points were perfectly valid. He looked at her without a word.
Jun Huang realized the problem. She smiled a little and didn’t say anything.
They came to the garden. It wasn’t big, but it was spacious enough for them to train in. The morning training regime wasn’t as intense as that of other time periods. It was for them to warm up their muscles and stretch their tendons. They had done this before. Normally she didn’t require much supervising.
Today, though, Nan Xun noticed that she wasn’t looking so good. He kept a close eye on her, worried that something would happen and go unnoticed by him.
They trained in silence. Jun Huang started practicing with a sword after warming up. Nan Xun trained in hand-to-hand combat next to her. They left each other with their own space, but occasionally they would exchange a glance.
Days had passed without accidents. The two of them trained in the garden every morning when the day only just broke, unbothered by anyone else.
Jun Huang had become weaker and weaker. It was getting more and more difficult for her to keep up with the training regime. She managed fine in the beginning, but now she was barely hanging on. She didn’t sleep well at night, and she was drowsy when she trained. Nan Xun was nervous for her.
Now, she was practicing a few moves under the tree in the garden. She hit the tree trunk with a knifehand strike, splitting through cold air and shaking the tree slightly. Birds perching on the tree took to air, startled, and leaves fell down from the branches due to the impact.
A shock of pain shot through her head. She blacked out and fell over. Nan Xun was startled into action and caught her just in time.
He felt her pulse. Her breathing was steady, like she was simply sleeping. He didn’t dare relax. He was going to carry her back to her room and send for a doctor, but she came to before he did anything.
“Are you alright?” he asked worriedly. “How do you feel?”
Jun Huang rubbed at her forehead and pulled away. She shook her head. “I’m fine. Just a little tired. I’ll be alright after sitting down for a bit.”
“Are you sure?” Nan Xun was still worried. He helped Jun Huang to a stone stool.
She smiled. “I know my condition. Don’t worry. If something’s wrong, I’ll tell you immediately.”
He let out a sigh of relief. He was going to stay with Jun Huang for a while, but she didn’t want to bother him. She told him to go back to his training. She’d continue after a short rest.
A trace of concern lingered in his heart, but he couldn’t say no to Jun Huang. He nodded and continued training not far from her. He looked over at her every once in a while. His heart settled gradually when she remained awake and well.
She recovered some of her strength after resting. She didn’t know what was going on. She blamed her sudden collapse on her lack of sleep recently.Previous Chapter Next Chapter