Chapter 258: Baby Steps

“Alright, stop thinking too much,” said Nan Xun. “We won’t get an answer just yet. We’ll just have our people watch them closely. She isn’t going to do anything for some time after this failure. Don’t worry about who she is and what she’s planning. You’ve just gotten better. Don’t push yourself too hard.”

He gave her a gentle smile. “We’ll face the storm together when it rises. You have me. Let me shoulder your burden. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”

Jun Huang blushed. A gust of wind swept over her. It was a little cold for her since she was wearing only a thin robe. Worried that she’d catch a cold, Nan Xun guided her to the study with a hand on her shoulder.

Once inside, Nan Xun had a maid prepare some hot tea and snacks. Jun Huang was warmed by his attentiveness. Once he came back to the study, she took his hands and smiled. “Stop running around and take a seat. Let’s talk.”

Nan Xun nodded. He grabbed a cloak and put it around Jun Huang’s shoulders before sitting on the bed, holding her close to him like he was afraid she’d disappear.

Jun Huang lay against his chest and tilted her head to look at him. After a brief pause, she started talking about what she’d been through after the destruction of Western Que. Nan Xun knew all about the hardships she’d been through, but hearing it from her still made his heart ache. If only he’d met her earlier, he’d be able to bear the pain for her.

The hatred didn’t overwhelm her this time. Instead, it settled heavily at the bottom of her heart. Nan Xun knew how hatred could consume a person. He was glad that Jun Huang had enough self control to keep a level head even when exacting revenge. He squeezed her hand and sighed.

“Just wait a little longer, Jun Huang. Qi Chen and Prince Duan are both lurking in the dark, ready to strike any second. I have to stay where I am to protect us and the nation. But I promise that once Qi Yun becomes the emperor, I’ll conquer Eastern Wu for you.”

Jun Huang chuckled. She knew how difficult it was to be in his position. She wasn’t going to pressure him. All she needed was for him to not forget about her.

“Let’s not talk about that for now.” She was suddenly reminded of her master, which curiously filled her with melancholy. She was increasingly surrounded by people who cared about her. It felt so surreal it made her worried when the other shoe was going to drop. “I wonder how master’s doing in Southern Mu.”

Nan Xun offered a few words of comfort and suggested, “Nan Jihan must know about blood lotuses. We didn’t play an important role in his ascension to the throne, but we did help. He isn’t going to burn the bridge if we ask for his help. Why don’t we write a letter and see if he’s willing to lend you a hand?”

Jun Huang threw him a glance. He had a point. They needed all the help they could get. With Nan Jihan’s assistance, they stood a better chance of acquiring a blood lotus.

She nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll get on that.”

She pulled away from Nan Xun and retrieved what she needed to write a letter. When Nan Xun approached her, she was about finished. She put aside the brush and shifted to the side, letting Nan Xun look at the letter in case there was something she’d missed.

Nan Xun read through the letter carefully and found nothing wrong with it. He put it into an envelope and handed it to a shadowguard, telling him to quickly get it to Nan Jihan.

Nan Jihan’s response came not long after. According to him, blood lotuses were only found in the coldest environment, and it was difficult to locate. Only members in the royal family knew where it was. However, the lotus had to be fed with blood for forty-nine days and harvested as soon as it matured. Otherwise the hundreds of years of growth the lotus went through would be all for nothing.

Her master had met up with Nan Jihan and knew already where the lotus was, but its nature dictated that they couldn’t just pluck it and deliver it to Jun Huang.

Jun Huang was disappointed, her hope again dimmed. She laughed ruefully at Nan Xun. “Perhaps it is fate that I’ll meet death sooner rather than later.”

Nan Xun browsed over the letter with a deep frown. He shared her sentiment, but he had to be optimistic for her sake. He pushed aside his messy thoughts and said comfortingly, “We’ll hold on for a little longer. You should rest well for the time being. Once things settle down in the imperial city, I’ll take you to Southern Mu and have your poison cured.”

Jun Huang managed a smile, her good mood from the last few days gone without a trace. She looked tired.

Nan Xun worried that her poison would act up again. He asked a servant to send for Ji Bo.

Ji Bo came visit soon. Nan Xun yielded his seat to Ji Bo so that he could take Jun Huang’s pulse. Jun Huang glanced at him. She felt fine, but to quell Nan Xun’s concern, she stayed quiet and let Ji Bo check on her.

Ji Bo closed his eyes for a moment before he let go of her wrist and drank some tea. “You’re doing fine. The poison isn’t going to act up so soon. However, your body is a little weak. You should have some supplements and rest well. Otherwise you may collapse before you can get the cure.”

Jun Huang nodded. “I’ll remember that.”

Her ready response surprised Ji Bo. He knew how stubborn she could be. She was willing to risk her life for revenge. That was why he’d reminded her to slow down so many times.

“Don’t be too concerned. I’ve once followed Qi Yun into the palace and took the emperor’s pulse. He wouldn’t last for more than a month. With me and the Prince Nan, we’ll defeat Eastern Wu in a few months. We must be careful and patient now.”

Jun Huang lowered her eyes and nodded. She didn’t say anything, but she felt a little lighter.

Eastern Wu was going to be defeated. She knew Ji Bo was right. She just worried she wouldn’t be able to stay with Nan Xun for long.

Ji Bo told Nan Xun what food Jun Huang should eat during this time. Nan Xun memorized it carefully.

After seeing Ji Bo off, Nan Xun turned back and was met with Jun Huang’s smile. He frowned and sat down next to her. “What is it?”

“I have an idea,” Jun Huang said.

“Which is?”

Her eyes lit up with a rare mischievous glint, so very unlike her usual aloof expression. Nan Xun felt the urge to get closer to her. He couldn’t have enough of these glimpses into her true self.

“I’ve been waiting for the right time for this. Maybe now isn’t the perfect time, but many things have happened lately. I worry that Qi Yun would feel lost. He needs some reassurance. So… I decide to stop pretending to be a man and go see Qi Yun as Jun Huang.”

Nan Xun frowned. He didn’t find the idea that appealing. He’d seen how she looked without disguise. She was so beautiful that he felt the urge to hide her. Moreover...

“Don’t worry. There are many people trying to find me, but only a handful of men from Eastern Wu have seen me with their own eyes, and they are all in Eastern Wu. Other may have heard about me, but I’m confident that they won’t recognize me.”

“You’ve been busy lately and rarely return to the manor. There will be times when you can’t spare the effort to watch over me. Besides, I really don’t want to see that woman around. I might as well go help Qi Yun.”

Nan Xun contemplated the issue with his gaze fixed on her. She looked back with a small smile. He couldn’t say no to her. With a sigh, he nodded.

“How are you going to find him?”

Jun Huang smiled. “Can you invite him here for me?”

Nan Xun nodded without a word and petted her head. He then went off to find Qi Yun, asking him to come under the pretense of discussing court affairs.

Once Nan Xun had left, Jun Huang rose to her feet with a smile and made sure that no one was around. She quickly went back to her bedroom and took out the dress she’d prepared some time ago.

The blue dress had no embroidered designs. The only decoration was the silver threads lining the hem of the dress, which glinted slightly under the sun. The silky long sleeves gave the dress an ethereal look. She changed into the dress behind the screen. When she walked out, she looked like a goddess descended from heaven.

She stood before the bronze mirror and looked at her reflection. Her hair ran freely down her back and waved in the breeze. Her features were as delicate as a painting. Her red lips and bright eyes could hold anyone captive.

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houseau3's Thoughts

Warning in advance: I know Qi Yun's supposed to find out about JH's identity already two hundred something chapters before, but let's just pretend that he's suffered from selective amnesia for some reason. This is too big a plot hole for me to fix unless I'm gonna rewrite the next chapter entirely...

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