Ji Bo frowned deeply, his thoughts unreadable. Dulled by her pain, Jun Huang wasn’t as observant as she usually was. She could barely opened her eyes. Ji Bo sighed and walked outside.
Nan Xun had already come back to the door. He immediately went up to Ji Bo. He wanted to ask how Jun Huang was, but he stayed quiet, worried that Ji Bo would find him troublesome.
Ji Bo huffed in amusement. Nan Xun was known as an undefeated general on battlefields, but at this moment, he was merely a man riddled with concerns for a woman.
Ji Bo took Nan Xun to the garden and drank some tea. “Do you know about her condition?”
“I know something about it. I tried to help, but someone like her would rather die working towards her goal than to do nothing. Doctors have said her body was deteriorating. The past few months have been taxing to her. I fear that...” Nan Xun choked, unable to continue. He closed his eyes to hide his sorrow.
Ji Bo thought for a good moment. “There may be a way to help her. I heard that the blood lotus in Southern Mu has magical healing quality. If she takes one, perhaps her poison will be cured. If you care about her this much, you can take her to Southern Mu once the situation is more stable. It’s better than doing nothing and awaiting death.”
Nan Xun paused. He’d heard about the blood lotus. People often talked about it as a mythical item of great value. Few remembered that it was meant for cleansing poison. Ji Bo’s words gave him a sense of hope.
Qi Chen was nowhere to be seen, and the emperor seemed close to dying. He couldn’t afford to leave Northern Qi now no matter how concerned he was. He was torn between his duty and his love for Jun Huang.
Ji Bo could easily read his thoughts. He patted Nan Xun on the shoulder in comfort. “Don’t worry. The poison isn’t going to claim her life just yet. I have ways to suppress it for the time being. Not for long, mind you. Once Northern Qi became stable enough, you may go to Southern Mu to seek treatment. It’s better that you go without the need to worry over Northern Qi.”
Nan Xun thanked Ji Bo earnestly. Even if he wanted to abandon his duty and take Jun Huang to Southern Mu, she wouldn’t let him. It was imperative for them to stay on guard now. There was no room for mistakes.
“Is there a way for the gentleman to lessen her pain?” asked Nan Xun. He could hear the pained groan coming from the other side of the door. The sound hit his heart like the sharpest daggers. There was nothing he wanted more than to take her pain for her. “I’m willing to do anything to make her feel better. I can’t stand seeing her in so much pain… Can you do that?”
Ji Bo thought for a moment before letting out a sigh. He nodded and requested for a set of silver needles and other equipment from Nan Xun. He went back to the room with Nan Xun at his tail.
Nan Xun stared at Jun Huang with unblinking eyes, his brows furrowed when he saw the pained look on her face.
Ji Bo sighed again. “I’ve read from an ancient text about methods to suppress poison and lessen pain. The process itself is painful, however. Not everyone can take it.”
Jun Huang slowly opened her eyes, her gaze shifting from Ji Bo to Nan Xun, then back to Ji Bo. She took a deep breath and said weakly, “I can take it.”
Ji Bo took out the silver needles. It was going to be painful enough to have her skin punctured. Having her wounds opened to let blood out? That would be excruciating.
Nan Xun went down on one knee and took Jun Huang’s hands. “Hold onto my hand if it hurts, okay?”
Jun Huang gave him a small smile. This time, she didn’t turn away his offer.
Ji Bo sterilized the needles by heating it up with a candle and had Nan Xun roll up Jun Huang’s sleeve. Nan Xun looked at the needles in Ji Bo’s hand, then at Jun Huang’s fair skin. She didn’t seem apprehensive of what was to come, while Nan Xun was already dreading the pain she’d be in.
As a general, pain had been Nan Xun’s oldest friend, but he couldn’t bear seeing Jun Huang in any pain.
Ji Bo glanced at Nan Xun. He’d never been in love before. He therefore didn’t understand the reason behind Nan Xun’s furrowed brows and pursed lips. Without a word, he placed Jun Huang’s arm on a pillow and carefully inserted the needle into her flesh.
She’d be lying if she said it didn’t hurt. She’d been through intense pain, but there were things you didn’t get used to. There had been days when her master would drain her blood every day. The kind of pain burrowed into her bones. It didn’t feel any easier now than it did before.
Her face went pale with a tint of blue. Nan Xun’s heart seized up. Just when he was going to demand an explanation from Ji Bo, Ji Bo inserted another needle into her arm. Nan Xun shut his mouth with his fists clenched tight, forcing himself to calm down. He worried he’d disturb Ji Bo by breathing even a little heavily.
Ji Bo stopped at six needles. He took a deep breath and wiped off the sweat covering his forehead. Once Jun Huang’s whole arm began to turn blue, he pulled the needles out and threw them into a bowl of water he’d prepared beforehand. The water soon turned into a terrifying black.
Ji Bo took a few tools to help get the tainted blood out. Nan Xun hated seeing Jun Huang suffer, but there wasn’t much he could do. He stared at Ji Bo’s hands anxiously, worried that he might hurt her.
For the next hour, Ji Bo continued to drain tainted blood from her body with his back bent. His waist was sore when he straightened. He rubbed at his tense muscles and sighed.
Jun Huang had fallen asleep during the process. There was still a deep frown on her face, but she looked a lot better. Nan Xun finally let himself relax. He couldn’t be more grateful to Ji Bo.
Ji Bo looked at Jun Huang before motioning at Nan Xun to leave the room with him.
“What does the gentleman need?” Nan Xun asked once they were outside.
“She needs to have her blood drained every day,” Ji Bo answered. “It’s a painful and delicate process. I think it’s better that I contact her master. He’s helped suppress her poison after all. Perhaps he’ll have a better way to manage her condition.”
Nan Xun nodded. “Thank you.”
Ji Bo waved a hand and went back into the room to check on Jun Huang. Once he made sure that her condition had stabilized, he left the manor.
They got a response from Jun Huang’s master not long after. It turned out that he’d been trying to find a cure for Jun Huang as well. Once he heard that Jun Huang couldn’t leave Northern Qi just yet, he offered to go to Southern Mu himself and try getting a blood lotus.
Both Jun Huang and Nan Xun were thrilled by the news. Nan Xun thanked her master in his mind and promise to express his gratitude to her master one day. He’d buy a drink for him in the most luxurious tavern in the imperial city.
Nan Xun kept his thoughts to himself and didn’t say anything to Jun Huang.
Jun Huang’s poison hadn’t acted up for the past few days. Some of his worry drained away. When she offered to go back to managing the manor, he only told her to not push herself.
Nan Xun went straight to the study after returning from the training ground. Jun Huang had fallen asleep sitting at the desk. He went off to his bedroom to retrieve a robe.
The woman Prince Duan sent to the manor saw Nan Xun from afar. Her eyes lit up and her lips curved into a smile. When the maid watching her wasn’t looking, she went to the kitchen.
She came back with a bowl of lotus seed soup. The maid frowned at her. “What are you doing?”
“I heard that the prince was back. I worried he may not have eaten much, so I asked the cook to prepare this. I’ll like to give this to him.”
The woman’s tone was so earnest it unsettled the maid. Even so, she couldn’t just admonish her openly. The woman was a gift from the emperor. Although Nan Xun didn’t care enough to give her a title, the servants mustn’t disrespect her. The maid gave another servant a pointed look, silently asking her to check if the soup had been tampered with.
Nothing seemed to be wrong with the soup. The woman turned to the maid and said, “I’m taking this to the prince. If you’re worried, you may come with me. But you should know that the prince is a trained fighter, while I am but a weak woman. Even if I intend to do anything untoward, I won’t be able to.”
She had a point. The maid stepped to the side without a word. The woman spared her one last glance before making her way to Nan Xun’s bedroom.
Nan Xun got changed and grabbed a blue robe. He ran into the woman at the door. He hadn’t seen her since the day she was sent here.
He’d been busy taking care of Jun Huang. He barely even remembered the woman. He didn’t expect her to come find him. He arched an eyebrow, irritated.
The woman took a deep breath and walked up to him graciously. She smiled. “Is Your Highness hungry? I’ve brought you some lotus seed soup from the kitchen. I hope you’ll have some.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter