Nan Guyue stared at Jun Huang for a long while, wondering why Jun Huang would say no to the offer. She was then reminded of the rumors she heard when she was in Northern Qi.
Before she could say anything, Jun Huang spoke up again. “His Majesty and I are not meant to be. Our paths are two parallel lines. Why should we force them to cross?”
Nan Jihan didn’t want to hear another polite refusal from Jun Huang, and he didn’t want his feelings for her to be her burden. He coughed and grabbed Nan Guyue off Jun Huang.
“If you have the time to play matchmaker, you should settle down and think about rearing an heir for your husband.”
Jun Huang felt awkward enough as an outsider. Nan Guyue’s entire face and both ears flushed a deep red. She turned to Nan Jihan and pouted, wanting to argue, but her brother gave her a pointed look, silently telling her to give them some privacy.
She gave him a meaningful look, which mortified him. She covered a snicker and put on a polite smile before excusing herself.
Jun Huang didn’t expect her to just leave. She sighed in resignation. It’d be impolite of her to leave Nan Jihan now.
The awkwardness in the air was smothering. Nan Jihan felt antsy seeing Jun Huang in women’s clothes. After some deliberation, he asked, “Do you need to get changed?”
Jun Huang glanced at her dress and shook her head. She didn’t see anything wrong with her attire. “That won’t be necessary.”
They fell silent again. Nan Jihan sat across from her and took a deep breath, putting on an appropriate smile and pouring himself a cup of tea. He took a sip of the bitter drink and asked, “How have you been? Is the treatment working?”
Jun Huang nodded and smiled faintly. “I’m about recovered.”
“But you don’t look healthy,” Nan Jihan said with his brows furrowed.
Jun Huang lowered her eyes and chuckled. “I hear it’s because of the sudden large amount of supplements I’ve taken. It’ll take some time for my body to adjust. Don’t worry. Maybe I’ll have made a full recovery the next time you see me.”
Her voice was deliberate and paced. Nan Jihan stared at her feminine and stunning look, his adoration threatening to burst out of his chest. He didn’t have three thousands consorts in his harem like the ancient emperor, but there were quite a lot of beautiful women in this palace. Some were vibrant and seductive, while others were tender and meek. None of them, however, was like Jun Huang, who was proud and extraordinarily graceful.
He got lost staring at her. Jun Huang couldn’t help but frown. She didn’t like being subject to such looks, and she didn’t want someone to waste their time on her. Her heart was small and only had room for Nan Xun. Other people’s attention would only be a burden to her. She wanted to treat Nan Xun right. That was why she was so eager to cure herself.
She grew even more resentful of Eastern Wu when she thought about how she was poisoned. After that came a sense of loss. She and Nan Xun loved each other deeply, but what about their future?
She was never the sentimental sort, and she was born proud and level-headed even in face of great challenges. After the tragedy befalling her, her eyes had been dark and lifeless until she met Nan Xun. Gradually, she grew to trust and care for the man. Her eyes were now as gentle as the river in spring. There was a tender air to her whenever she lowered her head and smiled.
“What are you thinking?” Jun Huang couldn’t stand the awkward atmosphere. She coughed to interrupt Nan Jihan’s train of thought and played ignorant to his feelings.
Nan Jihan didn’t become the emperor of Southern Mu without a pair of keen eyes. He could tell that Jun Huang was pretending. He smiled bitterly. She came to seek treatment for another man. It made his heart ache, but he knew he must never voice his thoughts. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to even have a civil conversation.
He waved a hand in the air and smiled without a word. Jun Huang paused and met his gaze again. “When do you think I’ll be able to start drawing blood for the lotus?”
This was a serious matter. Nan Jihan put aside his brooding thoughts and hummed. “I don’t know about your current condition, but let’s not rush into things. It’s risky to be hasty. You know that. Once you start drawing blood, you can’t stop. If you rush it, your body may not be able to take it, and all the hard work will be in vain.”
“I understand your concerns, but still - ”
“You don’t have to argue with me. I’ll get a doctor to check on you. I know your master has been taking care of you, but he may not have access to some rarer herbs. After the doctor makes a diagnosis, I’ll have someone bring you supplementary herbs. It’ll help you recover faster.”
He got to his feet, leaving no room for argument.
Jun Huang knew he was right, so she nodded agreeably. He sighed in relief. He had been worried that she’d refused to take anything from him.
He walked away to make the arrangement, leaving Jun Huang alone. The conversation had been unbearably awkward. She felt much better after he left.
She picked up a tea cup and took a sip, raising an eyebrow when bitterness hit her tongue.
Nan Jihan preferred sweet tea. She didn’t know he’d started having the bitter type. She was surprised, but she didn’t dwell on it.
Nan Jihan returned with a royal doctor and told him about Jun Huang’s condition as they walked. The doctor listened without a word, thinking about what he should do.
His forehead creased deeply after taking Jun Huang’s pulse. He nodded and said reassuringly, “You’ve been recovering well. You just have to rest for a little longer. I’ll prescribe some supplements for you.”
“Thank you.” Jun Huang smiled and rose to thank him. The doctor was startled by the gesture. He glanced at Nan Jihan and silently wiped off his sweat before hurrying away.
Jun Huang and Nan Jihan talked for a little longer until she started feeling tired. Nan Jihan wasn’t going to keep her. He had a few servants escort her back to her master’s place. He stood before the window for a long time and finally decided to send for Oleg Cragfiend.
The poison master approached him slowly without saluting him. Nan Xun didn’t pay that any mind. He didn’t care that much about formalities.
“I had a doctor check on her,” Nan Jihan hurried out. “It’s the same conclusion again. I don’t know if he was just saying what we want to hear. You are her master. You know what happened to her, and you’ve been treating her these days. You must know her condition better than anyone. I’m concerned and want an answer from someone I trust.”
Oleg Cragfiend stared at him for some time before asking what the royal doctor had said. Nan Jihan told him everything.
“There’s nothing we can do to change her fate,” said the poison master. “If she recovers, she recovers.”
“Is there nothing else we can do?”
“I can’t say for sure,” admitted Oleg Cragfiend. “The best we can do at the moment is to help her regain strength. I’ll have to do more research to see what else can be done.”
Nan Jihan frowned deeply. They exchanged a look. Both of them knew there was no better alternatives. Otherwise they wouldn’t put so much effort into making this solution work. Nonetheless, they worried that Jun Huang would collapse before the lotus was fed.
Oleg Cragfiend sighed and said quietly, “Maybe this is how it is. Sometimes life takes and doesn’t give. If there’s no other way, we’ll have to draw her blood to feed the lotus. We both know she’s determined to cure herself. We won’t be able to convince her otherwise. The only thing we can do is to help her recover so that she can survive the process.”
His words were blunt and hit Nan Jihan hard. The young emperor didn’t say a word, keeping his thoughts to himself. Oleg Cragfiend shook his head and bid Nan Jihan farewell.
Meanwhile, Consort Li was still kneeling in the garden. She gritted her teeth, wanting nothing but to tear Jun Huang to pieces. Bloody crescents were left on her palms as she clenched her fists and dug her nails into her flesh.
The maids timidly knelt on the ground with her. They lamented their misfortune, but didn’t dare stand up lest they received even worse punishment.
After two hours, the consort got to her feet with the help of a maid. She felt numb from knees down. Her fury intensified.
“We should return, Lady Li,” the maid said carefully.
Consort Li threw her a cold glance, scaring her into lowering her head. She narrowed her eyes bemusedly before patting the maid’s hand and saying with a smile, “Take some silver taels once we return to the palace and ask the emperor’s personal eunuch who that woman is. Find out why the emperor is so concerned for her.”
The maid nodded. Before she could go, Consort Li stopped her again. She turned to her master questioningly, waiting for her to speak.Previous Chapter Next Chapter