Jun Huang looked at Nan Xun with fond exasperation. She didn’t expect him to actually feed her. She acquiesced and ate the blood curd in the spoon. The taste made her gag. Nan Xun pursed his lips. He didn’t like seeing her ill.
Jun Huang couldn’t hold it any longer. She threw up what little food she had eaten, her face turning a shade paler. Everyone looked at her worriedly.
Nan Jihan called out for the servants to clean the mess up and turned to Oleg Cragfiend. “She can’t have anything else. If we force her to eat more, it may end up hurting her. We’ll get her some desserts if she gets hungry in the afternoon.”
“Food is crucial to our health. Sweets alone won’t be able to sustain her. She needs real food.” Oleg Cragfiend didn’t like seeing Jun Huang like this either, but he knew best the condition she was in. He wasn’t going to let her get herself killed.
Nan Xun smoothed a hand over Jun Huang’s back to help her recover. He agreed with the poison master. He rose to his feet and left with a maid. The others were confused, but they let him be.
Jun Huang looked at the unappetizing food over the table and drank some tea to cleanse the lingering taste in her mouth.
Nan Xun came back with a bowl of plain porridge. Oleg Cragfiend smiled approvingly when he smelled the ganoderma powder. Nan Xun gave him a faint smile in response and motioned at the maids to leave them alone. Jun Huang didn’t like being attended to by so many people.
The maids and servants were Nan Jihan’s and therefore only followed his order. However, Nan Xun had an air of intimidation to him. They debated if they should listen to this stranger. Fortunately, Nan Jihan considered them of no use here and waved them away. They couldn’t leave the room faster.
Nan Xun dragged a chair to Jun Huang’s side and put a spoonful of porridge to her lips. Jun Hunag took a deep breath and let him feed her. The porridge was light and plain enough that she didn’t feel ill. Nan Xun kept feeding her until she was full. She’d eaten half of the porridge.
Nan Xun relaxed once she’d gotten some real food in her and belatedly realized that he was hungry as well. He tucked in. Jun Huang poured him a cup of water and reminded him to slow down, her gesture gentle and their intimacy easy. Nan Jihan couldn’t help getting jealous.
Oleg Cragfiend sighed. Something was never meant to be. There would always be someone who couldn’t get what they wanted.
The meal lasted for a long time. Jun Huang sat down on a divan and started reading. Nan Xun knew she was waiting for him. Touched, he focused on finishing his food.
Nan Jihan couldn’t stand being in a room with the two of them. He grabbed a few bites and struggled to come up with an excuse to leave. A eunuch happened to enter the room, stating that an official had come to discuss court affairs. He got to his feet without hesitation and left with the eunuch.
Nan Xun knew what the young emperor was thinking. He covered a smile and shook his head. After lunch, he bid Oleg Cragfiend farewell and left with Jun Huang.
Jun Huang started dozing off. Nan Xun followed her back to her room and they had a nap. When they woke up, the sun was warm and pleasant in the sky.
Jun Huang sat in the garden enjoying the warmth. She told him to get some fresh air himself. He’d been thinking about looking around the area as well. He had a maid take care of her and left the building.
Nan Xun visited the palace as a guest and had been staying in the side palace with Jun Huang. However, there were many unwanted eyes here, and gossip traveled fast. Soon, many had heard about a handsome man who was living with Jun Huang.
People started to mock and insult Jun Huang behind her back. If Nan Xun hadn’t left the building today, he would still be in the dark.
In the royal garden, he ran into a few maids who were talking about Jun Huang. He hid in the shadow, listening in on their conversation.
“Do you know that a man has moved into the side palace?” a chubby maid said in a dramatic voice.
A slim maid nodded. “I saw him. Isn’t he the emperor’s guard?”
“Tsk, he isn’t. I worked there. That man has been staying with that woman the emperor favors all day long. They seem intimate and don’t even try to hide it when the emperor is present. Still, the emperor doesn’t resent her for that.” The chubby maid widened her eyes for dramatic effect. “Hey, do you think the woman is a fox spirit?”
“She can’t be. She’s so beautiful. How can she - ”
“The fox spirits in the tales are all beautiful as well!” the chubby maid said with great confidence. “But they’re often cunning and despicable. She must be one with the way she seduces men.”
“I suspect there’s something wrong with her as well. She did come out of nowhere...”
The maids walked away. Their voices slowly faded.
Nan Xun balled his hands into fists. It felt as if his blood had all rushed into his head. This was what Jun Huang’s time in the palace was like! She was misunderstood and, according to her personal maid, mistreated not too long ago. He gritted his teeth. If only he’d been here at the time!
He stood rooted to the spot until he’d suppressed his anger. Exhaling deeply, he crossed the garden and made his way to the royal study.
Nan Jihan’s personal eunuch was surprised to see Nan Xun here. He knew Nan Xun was the unbeatable general of Northern Qi. He of course was going to treat him with respect. He came up to Nan Xun with a smile. “What can this old servant help you with?”
“I want to see Nan Jihan,” Nan Xun said bluntly. “Just tell him I’m here.”
The eunuch paused. Noting Nan Xun’s dark expression, he gulped and hurriedly notify his master. He came back out not long after to respectfully invited Nan Xun inside.
Nan Jihan frowned when he looked up at Nan Xun. “What is it?”
Nan Xun told him what he’d heard in the garden and pretended not to see the scowl on his face. “This is something you must deal with seriously.” Nan Xun said with a scoff. “At least don’t let her hear such remarks.”
“I’ll take care of it.” Nan Jihan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was furious as well. How could anyone liken the goddess-like Jun Huang to a fox spirit?
After Nan Xun had left, Nan Jihan ordered to re-assign the chubby maid to the Cold Palace. He then had his men impose a stricter rule over the palace. Anyone who spread such rumors would be punished severely.
Nan Xun felt much better with the problem taken care of, but seeing the way Nan Jihan dealt with the issue made him uneasy.
First Qi Yun, now Nan Jihan. The two men both held more power than he did. If they decided to forcefully take Jun Huang away, there was little he could do. Although Jun Huang loved him, nothing could last in face of absolute power. Besides, he didn’t want to risk losing her.
He decided he’d take Jun Huang away once she was cured. He would be fine settling down anywhere. As long as they could stay together for the rest of their life, he was willing to give up everything.
A smile bloomed on Jun Huang’s face when she saw Nan Xun. She rose to her feet to welcome him, but stopped when she noticed the worry lines on his face. She frowned but didn’t voice her questions.
Sometimes, she didn’t need him to speak to understand his feelings.
Nan Xun settled his gaze on her. A sense of melancholy rose from his heart but didn’t show on his face. He put an arm around her. She lay against his chest without a word.
Nan Xun didn’t let go of her until much later. He led her back to the porch overlooking the garden and helped her sit down. He went inside to retrieve a robe for her and draped it over her shoulders.
“I hear that you’ve not only dealt with Northern Qi’s court affairs, but also some business of the House of Heavenly Fiends. If you continue to do my job for me, I’m going to have nothing to use my skills on.” Jun Huang teased with a chuckle, trying to lighten the mood.
She was naturally observant. Nan Xun knew she would notice even the most subtle changes in his mannerisms. He pursed his lips, wondering if he should let her know what he’d been worrying. She caught his hand and smiled. “There are things you don’t have to tell me. We know how we feel, and the world can see that as well.”
“You’re right.” Nan Xun relaxed, a smile tugging his lips. He discussed a few trivial matters about the House of Heavenly Fiends with Jun Huang. She didn’t have to know, but he didn’t want her to worry.
Jun Huang treated everything seriously. She’d try to come up with a better solution no matter how trivial the problem was.
Nan Xun watched her tenderly while she explained her ideas. Jun Huang fell into his adoring eyes and chuckled brightly after a short pause.
“I never thought I’d one day yearn for someone so keenly,” she said softly. “The feeling was tested during the time we were apart, and it grew deeper during your absence.”
Nan Xun’s stoic face softened into a tender smile. He smoothed a hand over the dark hair running down her shoulder, his gaze stopping at her sharp cheeks, his eyes filled with love and care.
Slowly, he whispered, “May our hearts be aligned always.”