Nan Xun shook his head and put on a smile. “It’s nothing. I just think that the jade stone we saw was a good one. Do you really not want it?”
Jun Huang didn’t notice that he was changing the subject. She sighed thinking that Nan Xun actually wanted the jade. “It’s not about my preferences. The stone is of second-class quality. It looks the way it does because the shop owner has treated it with solution. It’s beneath your status. If you wear it in public, you’ll get laughed at. I promise I have your best interest in mind.” She smiled and added, “What, are you unhappy with me for that?”
Her eyes and eyebrows curved like a waxing moon. The setting sun shone on her dimpled cheeks. She looked arresting.
“No, I’d like to thank you.” Nan Xun smiled back at her, putting aside the uneasy feeling that someone was watching them.
After walking for some distance, he turned around to check again, but there wasn’t anyone suspicious. He allowed himself to relax.
Qi Chen narrowly escaped Nan Xun’s detection when one of the men Prince Duan sent out pulled him into an alley. He frowned at the man and growled, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Please forgive this subordinate,” the guard said respectfully. “Prince Duan ordered me to keep an eye on Your Highness. Please do stay calm. It’ll be bad if we get detected by soldiers.”
Qi Chen huffed. “What, do you think I’m scared of them?”
“This is a critical time, Your Highness. Please don’t ruin the plan for short-term satisfaction.”
The guard’s tone remained polite, but Qi Chen took his words as mockery. However, he could only swallow his pride. The guard was Prince Duan’s confidante. He’d lost his influence in the court after what happened and needed Prince Duan’s support.
He took a deep breath and walked away in big strides. The guard followed him closely, worried that he might do something reckless again.
Jun Huang was getting tired. Nan Xun stayed with her without a word. Every once in a while he’d check on her, making sure that she was doing alright.
Jun Huang assumed that it was simply exhaustion affecting her. Nan Xun noticed her change in gait and said, “Let’s go back if you’re tired.”
Jun Huang looked up at his open expression. She thought back to the rumors on the street. People already believed that they had a relationship. It didn’t matter if she followed him back home with the public as their witness. She pushed aside her concerns about proper courtesy and nodded. “If I do, am I going to be the other master in your manor?”
She meant it as a joke, but Nan Xun answered with a tender smile, “If you’re willing, I’m more than happy with that. I’ll tell the servants to address you as such.”
Jun Huang coughed in mortification, caught off guard by his response, her ears burning hot. She took a deep breath to calm herself and turned back to Nan Xun. “You know I was joking. No need to tease me like that. Let’s go home. I am tired.”
Nan Xun nodded. He knew not to push his luck. If he was too forceful, Jun Huang might end up feeling uncomfortable. That wasn’t what he wanted.
They made their way to the manor without a word, sparing no attention for the vendors lining the street.
After they arrived at the manor, Nan Xun asked Jun Huang to wait for him in the garden and went off to order the servants to prepare some food and snacks. He worried that she might be hungry.
Once she was alone, her body seized up suddenly. It was painful for her to even breathe. Worried, she took a deep breath and took her own pulse, but she didn’t notice anything wrong.
She was reminded of what her master once told her: a doctor shouldn’t make diagnosis for themselves. Fear crept up to her. Her forehead broke into sweat.
There was no one around. Pain drained her face of any color. She tightened her fists to stay awake, her nails biting into her palms.
She’d have to be a fool to not know what was happening. It wasn’t the first time the poison wreaked havoc in her body. The last few times had been pretty consistent in their intensity, but this time, her body reacted more violently than she anticipated.
She held onto the edge of the stone table, her knuckles going white. Her face looked even paler. The servants passing by thought that she was taking a rest, so they didn’t get closer.
When Nan Xun returned to the garden, Jun Huang was lying on the stone table. He too assumed that she was simply tired. Worried that she’d catch a cold, he retrieved a robe and put it around her shoulders.
The moment he got closer, she clutched at his shirt, alerting Nan Xun. He knelt before her and brushed back her hair. She was as pale as a sheet, her brows knitted tightly in pain.
“What’s going on?” Nan Xun took her hands and asked nervously.
Jun Huang struggled to open her eyes. Sweat dripped down her forehead like rain. It was heartbreaking to look at her.
She opened her mouth but couldn’t say anything. It was all she could do to hold onto Nan Xun’s hand tightly, trying to distract herself from the pain.
She failed to control herself because of the pain. Her nails burrowed into Nan Xun’s arm, leaving bloody crescents on his skin. Nan Xun frowned but didn’t say a word of complaint. He smoothed his hand over her spine. “You may feel better sitting up. Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
It took some time for Jun Huang to say through the pain, “It’s… most likely the poison. It hurts...”
Nan Xun froze. It wasn’t the first time the poison acted up when he was with Jun Huang, but she’d never reacted like this before. For a brief moment, he was at a loss of what to do. He forced himself to take a calming breath and waved a shadow guard over.
“Go to the home base of the House of Heavenly Fiends outside the city and ask for Mister Ji Bo. Hurry.”
The shadow guard knew they couldn't afford to wait. He nodded and ran outside, vanishing into the night. Nan Xun stuck close to Jun Huang and put an arm around her, supporting her weight.
After the wave of pain subsided, her brows were still furrowed, and her parted lips were almost white. It pained him to see her in this state.
He didn’t hesitate for long before picking her up and rushing to the bedroom. He worried that the pain would come again. He knew this wasn’t a regular bout of attack. Jun Huang stayed motionless in his arms like it hurt to even move a muscle.
Her breathing was so faint it was almost nonexistent. Nan Xun held her tighter against his chest. Once they reached the bedroom, he gingerly placed her on the bed.
Jun Huang was assaulted by another wave of pain as soon as her body touched the divan. She gritted her teeth to stop herself from making a sound, not wanting to worry Nan Xun. However, her body reacted to the pain against her will. Her face went even more pale. Nan Xun offered his arm to her.
“Hold onto me. Don’t hurt yourself.”
Jun Huang shook her head with tightened jaw and looked away. After some time, Ji Bo’s voice came from the outside. He was asking the shadow guard what had happened. The guard didn’t know for sure and gave him a vague answer. Ji Bo cursed.
Nan Xun said a few words to assure Jun Huang before going out to get the door.
“What happened?” Ji Bo asked without preamble.
Nan Xun dismissed the servants and explained, “Nothing happened, but her poison acted up suddenly. This one is different from the previous ones. I’ve had doctors check on her before, but they couldn’t do anything to cure her. I remember seeing medical books at your place when we first met you, and I heard you knew medicine. So I asked for you to check on her and see what you can do.”
Ji Bo knew Jun Huang was plagued with poison. She’d told him that she hadn’t sought out a cure for her own reasons. Now it seemed he had to check for himself.
He followed Nan Xun into the room without a word and saw Jun Huang lying on the bed, her clothes wrinkled due to her sweat. There was a fragile beauty to her, but neither Nan Xun nor Ji Bo were in the mood to appreciate it.
Ji Bo rushed to the bed and took her wrist. Her eyes opened wide and she struggled until she saw that it was Ji Bo. She sighed in relief. “Why are you here?”
Her voice was weak and unsteady. Ji Bo frowned and said lowly, “Stop talking.”
Nan Xun came up to them nervously. “Mister Ji Bo, how is - ”
Ji Bo peered at him coolly. Nan Xun realized that he had lost his calm due to his fear. He was reminded of what the first doctor that had checked on Jun Huang told him. He said that the poison in Jun Huang’s system couldn’t be cured, and that she… was going to die soon.
Ji Bo waved a hand at him and said, “You won’t be of much help. Please go and have the servants prepare some plain congee. She’s going to be hungry later.”
Nan Xun knew Ji Bo considered him a nuisance here. Despite his reluctance, he left the room without arguing, looking back at Jun Huang every few steps.
Once Nan Xun had left, Ji Bo calmly took Jun Huang’s pulse and asked about her symptoms. Jun Huang’s voice was still weak, but she answered him honestly.Previous Chapter Next Chapter