The eunuch spent some time talking to Qi Yun without even mentioning the secret decree the emperor had issued, but Qi Yun was shrewd enough to make the right guess. The eunuch was the emperor’s confidante, Qi Yun therefore had kept an eye on him and sometimes gave him gifts. The eunuch never showed him any real support and rarely initiated contact with him. His sudden change of attitude was telling.
The signs were there. Qi Yun had to live up to his father’s expectations. He put in more effort in dealing with court affairs, giving others no chance to criticize him. He was even more attentive to the emperor as well. He’d visit his father whenever he had the time and say he simply wanted to spend time with the emperor when asked. The emperor gladly enjoyed his son’s company.
During her stay in Nan Xun’s manor, Jun Huang was kept from working. She wasn’t even allowed to read books, which exasperated and warmed her in equal measure. She didn’t complain and instead teased Nan Xun for being a mother hen.
Nan Xun had delegated most of his work at the training ground to his second in command in order to keep Jun Huang company. After a few days, the second in command couldn’t do it anymore. He went to Jun Huang and asked her to convince Nan Xun to go back to work.
Jun Huang knew it was a turbulent time. Nothing must go wrong with the soldiers’ training. She discussed the issue with Nan Xun and tried to change his mind.
Nan Xun was unwilling to leave her. He wasn’t a irresponsible man, but Jun Huang was a terrible patient. In the beginning he’d left her to her own devices, and she started dealing with business of the House of Heavenly Fiends not long after. She fainted again and only stopped overtaxing herself after Ji Bo scolded her. Still, she’d sometimes go back to work when no one was watching. Nan Xun had no choice but to put aside his responsibilities and focused on taking care of her.
Jun Huang had been kept from the court affairs. She heard news about what was happening, but she didn’t get to see the whole picture. It wasn’t until Ji Bo told her that she realized Qi Yun had gained a foothold in the court. Ji Bo suggested her to take the opportunity to travel to Southern Mu and receive treatment.
She’d told Ji Bo she’d think about it. What Nan Xun’s second in command said got her thinking. Nan Xun was willing to sacrifice everything for her. She should try her best to earn a life with Nan Xun. Her ailment-riddled body was her biggest obstacle.
After some deliberation, she decided that she’d go to Southern Mu and cure her poison. The urge to be free of the shackles of impending death grew stronger and stronger. She wanted nothing but to regain her health again and stay with Nan Xun until the end of time. She’d like to see the vast world with him.
Nan Xun frowned when he heard her out. He would miss her dearly, but it was her life they were talking about. Everytime Jun Huang fell asleep, he never knew if she would be able to wake up. In the end, he nodded in agreement.
Jun Huang was still worried about the situation of the court, but Nan Xun assured her that it’d be alright. He and Ji Bo would be here, and Qi Yun had been granted some real power. There were also officials who supported him.
Moreover, although Qi Chen would like to take revenge, he was no longer the just heir, and wouldn’t dare show up before the emperor. Prince Duan alone wouldn’t be enough to turn things around.
Nan Xun made the arrangements to escort Jun Huang to Southern Mu. The day before her departure, he brought a bowl of medicine to her bedroom. She was writing something and put away the brush when she saw him, a small smile tugging her lips.
“I told you to rest. Why are you working again? Besides, you’re leaving tomorrow. You should sleep early.”
Nan Xun handed her the bowl and looked over her shoulders. It turned out that she was making a map of the imperial city for their reference. If something happened, they could better come up with a solution according to the map.
“I would go with you if Northern Qi didn’t need me now. It’s a long travel. What if something happens without me by your side?” Nan Xun’s gentle eyes were filled with reluctance. No one other than Jun Huang had seen him like this.
She touched the corner of his eye and chuckled. “Don’t be like that. Just take care of yourself and wait for me to return. If any troubles arise, remember to consult Ji Bo. Alright?”
Nan Xun took her hands and nodded, pulling her into his arms. He wanted to just hold her until the day he died.
It was already midnight when Jun Huang fell asleep. Nan Xun stared at the full moon from the hallway, a sense of melancholy filling his heart. He paused when a servant announced Qi Yun’s arrival and made his way to the main hall.
Qi Yun put his hands behind his back and said without ceremony, “I hear Jun Huang is going to Southern Mu on her own. I know you’ll make the necessary preparations, but are you sure she’ll be safe?”
Nan Xun had been in a bad mood knowing that Jun Huang was leaving. Qi Yun had come at the wrong time. He scoffed at Qi Yun’s anxious face and mocked, “You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve personally trained all my people. They are more competent than your men. I’ll never let anyone take her away while she’s under my protection.”
Qi Yun flushed red in anger. Of course he could tell that Nan Xun was still angry with him for what happened last time. However, he couldn’t defend himself. Nan Xun hadn’t said a word of artifice.
He gritted his teeth and stormed away, returning to the palace. He had a lot to do. He didn’t have time to waste.
The next day, Nan Xun’s second in command visited early in the morning and said the emperor had notified them about a visit to the training ground. It was an important matter that required Nan Xun’s attention. He had no choice but to get to work.
When he returned to his manor, Jun Huang had already left. He was almost depressed the next two days. He couldn’t stop thinking about her even when he was trying to sleep. She had a long journey ahead of her.
Jun Huang had traveled outside the city quite a few times, but rarely without his company. It was fine when he could stay with her and take care of her. It worried him now that she was on her own.
He wanted to take care of the business in the imperial city as soon as possible and went straight to Southern Mu for Jun Huang. He knew she wasn’t going to be able to return anytime soon. He missed her even more and wanted nothing but to fly to her side immediately.
He knew how Nan Jihan felt about Jun Huang. He worried that the man would keep Jun Huang from returning to him.
Nan Xun’s second in command noticed how much time Nan Xun had been spending on work lately. It was a stark contrast from how he’d been a while ago. The general had made sure to make time for Jun Huang every day. It was troubling to see him overwork himself now.
“You don’t have to work so hard, general,” the second in command finally said. “This subordinate knows that you don’t want to be apart with Gentleman Feng. You should go find him once the situation settles down.”
Nan Xun paused and cracked a smile. “That’s my plan. We have a lot of brave warriors on our side. Even if Eastern Wu wages war against Northern Qi, you’ll be able to defeat them without me.”
The second in command wasn’t sure if he should be happy that Nan Xun trusted them, or upset that Nan Xun had put such a heavy burden on them.
“That’s true. But - ”
Nan Xun threw him a glance before he could finish. He swallowed his words and sighed, keeping his complaint to himself. “General may do as you wish. This subordinate will follow your instructions. Northern Qi is becoming more stable. We’ll be fine without you for a few weeks.”
Nan Xun rubbed at his forehead tiredly and put down the book in his hand. “Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. I won’t let any harm come to Northern Qi. The big picture is what matters at the moment.”
The second in command sighed in relief. Before leaving, he ordered a servant to prepare something to help relax Nan Xun.
The journey to Southern Mu was a smooth one. Jun Huang and her escorts all disguised themselves as peasants to avoid attracting attention. She never had a high standard for her living condition, but when she put on the clothes of a peasant man, she still felt a little uncomfortable.
She sighed. Had she gotten used to a luxurious life during her stay in Northern Qi?
A rueful smile tugged at her lips. She turned to glance at the shadow guards following her. It warmed her to think about how Nan Xun had assigned the guards to her and reminded her to stay safe.
They kept a low profile as they entered Southern Mu. Jun Huang first sent a message through the House of Heavenly Fiends. Their top priority was to locate her master. The rest would come after they met up.
It’d take some time for her to find her master. During the down time, she stayed and explored the nation. It was different from how she expected. Northern Qi was a strong and steely country, while Southern Mu was moderate and gentle. It resembled the ancient city Chang’an, as stunning and captivating as a woman’s gentle smile.
She’d always thought Western Que was a place for scholars. She only realized how similar Southern Mu was to her home country now. Pavilions and buildings stood by rivers and lakes. Young women strolled along the street, their colorful dresses dancing with their movement. Meanwhile young men engaged in pleasant conversation about the beauty of literature, waving a fan with a faint smile. It was a serene picture.
She could get lost here. It resembled Western Que too much - her home country would never be more than a passage in history books, but it’d been rendered immortal in her memory.Previous Chapter Next Chapter