Chapter 249: Thin Ice

Worried that she’d expose Jun Huang if she stayed too close to her, the woman ran away. She glanced at the soldiers traversing the mountain, silently calculating her chance of survival as she ran. Distracted, she was caught off guard by one of the pursuers’ shouting. She stumbled and rolled down a small hill, twisting her ankle when she landed.

She cursed under her breath and grabbed a stick to use as a crutch. Sharp pain stabbed through her ankle as she moved. She gritted her teeth and kept running.

The soldiers chased her with single-minded focus, forcing her to the edge of a cliff. Her heart sank. There was no way out for her now. She couldn’t turn around and risked having her face seen. She took a deep breath, focusing on the footsteps closing in on her.

She jumped.

The soldiers didn’t expect such a strong reaction. Qi Chen hurried to the cliff and stared down, opening his mouth but unable to make a sound. It took a moment for him to recover from his shock. “Why don’t you go down there and search for him?”

“Your Highness, the cliff is steep. It’s a bottomless pit no one has been to before,” said an older man who was familiar with the region. “He must have died on impact. There’s also no path for us to tread on. The only way down is to jump off the cliff.”

Qi Chen scowled. He was overwhelmed with a great sense of loss when he saw Feng Baiyu jump off. His resentment for the man quieted down, leaving only memories of Feng Baiyu’s kindness and wisdom.

Prince Duan caught up with them. He nodded in response to the servants’ briefing and came to Qi Chen’s side. Qi Chen’s expression made him furious. “He’s a nobody,” Prince Duan snapped. “What are you being sentimental for? If you react like this every time, you’ll never reach your goal. You might as well stay in the prison.”

Qi Chen didn’t know how to defend himself. He stared at the ground for a good while before saying, “You’re right. I’ve lost control of myself.”

Prince Duan scoffed and led the soldiers and servants away. Qi Chen took one last glance at the cliff, his heart filled with a mess of emotions, but there was nothing he could do now. He sighed and followed after the group.

He’d thought that he’d feel better after taking revenge against Jun Huang, but he didn’t. His sleep wasn’t a restful one. He kept remembering the young man with calm eyes and faint smile. He wondered if he’d been possessed. He forced himself to forget about Jun Huang. He stayed with the guards Prince Duan assigned him all day long, turning a blind eye to what was happening outside the building.

Jun Huang was woken up by a gust of wind. She hunched her shoulders as she looked around. It was deep into the night. The cool moonlight was the only light source, but it was enough for her to make out the contours of everything around her.

She knew that it was likely the woman had fallen to her demise. If she had been alive and well, she wouldn’t have left Jun Huang here alone.

Jun Huang’s heart sank. She never wanted other people to suffer in her stead, and yet she ended up getting a woman she’d only seen once killed. There was a lump in her throat. She didn’t know how someone would be willing to make such a sacrifice for a stranger.

What happened had happened. She couldn’t rewind time. The best thing she could do was to hide and clean up her tracks, making sure that Qi Chen’s men wouldn’t notice her. She’d sneak away in the morning.

Having something to focus on made her feel a little better. She moved backward until her back hit a tree and started looking around.

Something was wrong. The forest shouldn’t be so quiet.

She frowned as she surveyed her surroundings. Suddenly, she spotted a pair of green lights in the dark. Her breath hitched and her fists clenched as she took a closer look.

It was a wolf. It seemed to have been there for a while. It bared its terrifying teeth as it stared at her with predatory gaze. Saliva dripped down from the corner of its snout.

Jun Huang forced herself to calm down. Holding her breath, she grabbed a rock with tight grip and slowly got to her feet.

The wolf lunged as soon as it saw its prey move. Its two forelegs latched onto her shoulders, the claws burrowing into her flesh. She gritted her teeth to brace against the pain.

The wolf bit at her, opening its mouth wide. Jun Huang had dropped the stone in pain. At the last moment, she grabbed the wolf’s upper and lower teeth with each hand, forcing its mouth open. Saliva oozed down her hand, the smell foul and aggressive.

Jun Huang did her best to hang on. In its moment of weakness, she flipped their position and pinned the wolf down. She let go of its snout and grabbed a rock to hit the wolf’s head.

There was rustling sound coming from somewhere nearby. She worried that the wolf had called in its companions. She quickly climbed onto a tree and sat on a sturdy branch. Finally, she was able to breathe.

It took a moment for the wolf to regain consciousness. It growled at Jun Huang threateningly. She held onto the trunk with her brows furrowed, shutting her mouth tight.

She was trembling. She had been oddly calm when she grappled the wolf, but now the fear had set in.

She’d have died if the wolf bit into her throat. She’d have been eaten alive. She shook. She’d never been as afraid as she was now.

She took a deep breath to calm herself. The wolf was still circling the tree. She didn’t dare let herself relax. She stayed on the tree until morning came.

The wolf finally left with great reluctance, but Jun Huang didn't’ immediately get down. She worried that the wolf might be hiding somewhere.

She snorted. No beasts were that smart.

Even so, she stayed another hour on the tree before getting off. She almost collapsed when she landed. Sitting on the branch wasn’t good for her legs, and she’d been on high alert. Now that she let herself relax, she almost lost control of her limbs.

She leaned against the tree to recover her strength. Paying no attention to her unkempt state, she went down the mountain through another path. She had to ask for direction a few times to find her way back to the imperial city. She went straight to Nan Xun’s manor, ignoring people’s odd looks.

When she reached the manor, there was no one around. She frowned. During her long absence, Nan Xun must have ordered everyone to search for her. Her brows drew closer together, and her heart  grew heavy.

She hated being a burden, but she’d made Nan Xun worry again and again.

She’d just escaped death, but her safety wasn’t really her biggest concern now.

Her head throbbed painfully. She entered the empty manor and went to her bedroom on autopilot. Her night had been a restless one because of the wolf. Exhaustion started to set in. She just wanted to sleep. The rest would have to wait.

Inside her bedroom, she didn’t even have the strength to close the door. She toppled onto the bed and fell asleep immediately.

Meanwhile, Nan Xun was still looking for Jun Huang. His heart pounded hard in panic. Prince Duan had been the one who kidnapped her last time. It might not be him again. The one person who hated her the most at the moment was Qi Chen.

It felt as if his blood had frozen over when he thought about the possibility that Qi Chen had taken her away. After punishing the guards tasked to protect Jun Huang, he started searching for her day and night.

He knew he mustn’t let too many people know about the kidnapping, or Jun Huang might be at more risk. He could only rely on his own people. After a day and a night, though, he still hadn’t gotten any results.

His shadow guards couldn’t let Nan Xun do this to himself. Nan Xun’s eyes were bloodshot, making him seem unhinged and dangerous. They’d never seen him lose his calm like this. Even on battlefields, he always looked confident in his victory. Now, though, his eyes were filled with fear.

It’d be dangerous to let someone see Nan Xun in this state. The shadow guards discussed the issue with Nan Xun’s second in command. The second in command went to Nan Xun, ready for any punishment Nan Xun might give him. “You have to rest, general.”

Nan Xun’s frigid gaze made his heart pound, but he continued after taking a deep breath. “You should know that your reaction is putting Gentleman Feng in more danger, general. We’ll keep searching for him. You can’t collapse at time like this.”

Nan Xun paused. He knew his attitude might give those who’d been watching him the leverage to use against him, but knowing was different from doing. He was reluctant to leave. He agonized for a good while before letting out a sigh and nodding. “I’ll return to the manor. Be careful not to let anyone notice what you’re doing. I’ll wait for your good news.”

“Rest assured, general, that we’ll inform you immediately after finding Gentleman Feng,” promised the second in command.

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houseau3's Thoughts

That's why you should leave someone at home, dude.