Nan Xun huffed out a wistful laugh and poured himself another cup of wine. Ji Bo took the cup from him.
“What?” muttered Nan Xun.
“The wine is good, but it’s going to be bad for you in excess. Besides, you’re going to be feeling the alcohol tomorrow if you don’t stop drinking. Why waste something so nice if you’re not going to enjoy it?” Ji Bo smiled and chucked the wine carelessly. “Might as well use it as tribute to the bright moon.”
“The gentleman sure knows how to enjoy life,” Nan Xun said with a quiet laugh.
Ji Bo shrugged and placed his empty cup on the stone table. After a pause, he continued, “It’s already difficult for her to leave the city to seek treatment. She can only do so because you and I are here. If you leave as well, she’ll start worrying again, which will be detrimental to her health.”
“Besides, Qi Chen and Prince Duan pose a threat simply by existing. If you leave, there’s no telling what they’ll do. Please keep the big picture in mind. Once they’re dealt with, you can then think about going to Southern Mu.” Ji Bo was speaking from the bottom of his heart.
Nan Xun pursed his lips. He knew what Ji Bo meant. He simply missed Jun Huang too much and was feeling melancholy seeing the moon. Ji Bo words made him realize how unreasonable his wish was.
Ji Bo sighed in relief when he saw Nan Xun’s resigned expression. After exchanging a few more words, Ji Bo bid Nan Xun farewell and returned to his bedroom.
Nan Xun sat under the moon alone, his heart filled with a faint sense of loss. He knew he had to put all his effort into dealing with the task at hand before he could go to Jun Huang.
With that in mind, he threw himself into work, leaving early in the morning to train his soldiers and returning late in the evening. Before he fell asleep, Jun Huang was often on his mind.
Meanwhile, Jun Huang missed Nan Xun dearly as well. She stood in the garden looking up at the sky. Her yearning for Nan Xun was quiet, but unrelenting.
It’d been some time since she left Northern Qi. She wondered what was happening there. Occasionally she’d exchange a letter with Nan Xun, but she knew he was busy. She didn’t write a lot about her current situation lest she burden him with worry.
She sighed as she placed her hand over her chest, feeling her heart pounding against her ribcage. The lone moon cast an untouchable silver glow over her surroundings. She felt like a lone wolf roving a vast land.
When Oleg Cragfiend came with Jun Huang’s medicine, she was standing at the center of the garden. Her silk robe waved softly in the breeze, catching the silver moonlight and giving her an ethereal feel. She looked even more stunning than usual.
“Master.” Jun Huang was surprised to see him standing in the hallway. She gave him a small smile.
Without a word, Oleg Cragfiend walked up to her and handed her the bowl of medicine. She stared at the black liquid in the ceramic bowl for a moment before finishing it in one go.
Bitterness assaulted her senses, but she’d gotten used to the taste. Nothing could top the pain inflicted on her by the poison. She could therefore take any medicine without so much as a frown.
Oleg Cragfiend sighed and patted her on the shoulder, motioning at her to take a seat. Jun Huang obliged without a word.
“What’s on your mind?” Oleg Cragfiend finally asked, breaking the silence.
Jun Huang frowned and shook her head in response.
Oleg Cragfiend sighed, looking into the distance. “There’s no need for you to keep it from me. I don’t know why you’ve been preoccupied, but I have to remind you that you have to recover enough to feed the lotus with your blood. You mustn’t exhaust yourself, mentally or physically. I don’t know what has happened to you in Northern Qi, and I don’t want to prod. However, you have to prioritize your health and rest well.”
“Maybe your heart is with something or someone in Northern Qi,” he said slowly, laying down the facts. “However, if you can’t put your mind to rest, it’ll take longer for your body to recover, and we’ll have to wait longer to cure you.”
After a long pause, Jun Huang nodded with a smile. “This disciple will keep master’s words in mind. I’ll rest and recover with your help in order to get cured as soon as possible.”
Her tone was earnest. Oleg Cragfiend nodded and went back to his room. Jun Huang stayed in the garden for a while in deep thoughts.
Her master was right. It wasn’t the time for her to be stubborn. She had her obligations. She had to cleanse the poison as soon as she could so that she could focus on her revenge.
Early the next morning, Jun Huang was woken up by a familiar voice outside. Her forehead creased as she contemplated what to do. She rose and made herself presentable before walking outside. It was Nan Guyue, who she hadn’t seen her for a while.
Nan Guyue was talking to Oleg Cragfiend with a bright smile. She widened her eyes slightly when she saw Jun Huang. Her gaze shifted from Jun Huang’s face to the clothes she wore, her brows drawing closer.
“What’s wrong?” Jun Huang asked as she approached Nan Guyue, her tone teasing. “You look as if you don’t recognize me anymore, Princess.”
Nan Guyue took Jun Huang’s elbow without pause and ended her conversation with Oleg Cragfiend, dragging Jun Huang back to her bedroom.
Once Nan Guyue let go of her, Jun Huang fixed her robe and looked up at the princess. “I didn’t see you the other day and thought I wouldn’t have the chance, but you came to my doorstep on your own accord.”
“Of course I would. You’ve come to my country. I have to show you my hospitality.” Nan Guyue winked at Jun Huang mischievously. She seemed more like herself than she had been in Northern Qi, which Jun Huang was glad about.
After some pleasantries, Nan Guyue noted how Jun Huang’s attitude had softened. She rushed to Jun Huang’s side with a beam and pulled at her collar. “Why are you still dressed like a man?”
Jun Huang narrowed her eyes at Nan Guyue. Intimidated, Nan Guyue hunched and cleared her throat. “I didn’t mean to violate your privacy. It was my brother’s men who brought the news from Northern Qi. I just happened to hear it.”
“Nan Jihan knew as well?” Jun Huang started. Now that she thought about it, there were signs of him knowing. She should have deduced that, but she was distracted by their argument.
Nan Guyue timidly looked at Jun Huang without a word, thinking she’d angered Jun Huang. Once Jun Huang sorted through her thoughts, she looked up and was met with Nan Guyue’s meek gaze. She snorted and poked at Nan Guyue’s forehead with a finger.
The princess knew she was a woman already. They built an easy rapport and had a pleasant conversation between two women.
“Hey, no one knows who you are here. Why are you still dressed like a man?” Nan Guyue was curious.
Jun Huang said honestly, “It’s just to be on the safe side, and it’s easier to lay low this way. Besides, I’ve gotten used to dressing as a man.”
“But you’re such a natural beauty,” said Nan Guyue. “If you style your hair, change into a dress, and put on some makeup, you’ll look stunning.”
Jun Huang flushed red and cleared her throat awkwardly, averting her gaze, trying to ignore Nan Guyue’s insistent prodding. In the end, Nan Guyue pouted at her unhappily.
“You’re a woman. Why can’t you dress like one? Men’s clothes don’t suit you as much! I’m not trying to be nosy, but you don’t have to be as careful in Southern Mu as you were in Northern Qi. Besides, I just want to see you as a woman. Why must you turn me down?”
Nan Guyue spoke with great aplomb, as if she’d announce it to the whole world if Jun Huang turned her down again.
In the end, Jun Huang gave in. “It’s not that I don’t want to show you. I just don’t have any women’s clothes. I’ll put them on for you once I acquire some.”
Nan Guyue nodded after a thoughtful pause. She knew Jun Huang wasn’t going to lie to her in this matter. But then she came up with a better alternative. “I’ll prepare the clothes and bring them to you in two days. You have to honor your promise then.”
Jun Huang nodded in resignation.
The next two days passed quickly as Jun Huang stayed indoor and took medicine every day. On the third day, Nan Guyue visited with an armful of clothes.
Nan Guyue didn’t insist on following Jun Huang in and helping her change. She did know something about boundaries as a member of the royal family. She waited outside for Jun Huang.
Meanwhile, Jun Huang was in the room, staring at the light yellow dress in her hands with a sigh. After a brief hesitation, she put on the dress and untied her hairband, letting her dark hair run freely down her back, reaching her waist.
She had given Nan Guyue her word. She shouldn’t go back on it.
Nan Guyue was getting impatient. She shot to her feet and knocked on the door. Jun Huang opened it to let her in.
Nan Guyue’s jaw dropped when she saw Jun Huang. She knew Jun Huang was beautiful, but she never anticipated how beautiful she could be.
Jun Huang had been taking medicine every day. The smell lingered about her. Her face was a little pale, but her unique grace made her look ethereal rather than sickly. She was like a goddess descended from heaven.Previous Chapter Next Chapter