Nan Jihan happened to see Jun Huang collapse when he entered. He rushed to her, but was waved away by Oleg Cragfiend. “She needs some time to take in the medicine. Don’t worry too much.”
Nan Jihan let out a sigh of relief. He looked down at Jun Huang, at her fair skin and delicate features framed by silky hair. She radiated coldness because of the lotus she’d consumed.
“Your Majesty, Northern Qi has delivered a message,” his personal eunuch went up to him and whispered.
Nan Jihan frowned. He’d exchanged a few letters with Nan Xun lately, but not often. This one had arrived earlier than usual. Something must have gone wrong.
He couldn’t figure out an explanation, but he was unwilling to leave Jun Huang. He wanted to be the first thing she saw when she woke up, and he wanted to see her recover.
The eunuch couldn’t argue with him. He had no choice but to ask the messenger to wait. The messenger, however, pulled a face and insisted that the matter was urgent. The eunuch took him to the side palace after some deliberation.
Nan Jihan scowled and threw the eunuch a glare. The eunuch meekly turned away and played ignorant. With a sigh, Nan Jihan followed the messenger to the study. There were things he couldn’t put aside as the ruler of the nation.
“Why are you in such a rush?” Nan Jihan asked coldly, gazing at the man from behind a teacup.
“There was a traitor in the army. Prince Nan went missing after an ambush. Please help us, Your Majesty.”
Nan Jihan shot to his feet, dropping his teacup on the floor and widening his eyes. It took some time for him to recover. With a clouded look, he dismissed the messenger. He stopped his eunuch before he could leave and said, “I failed to keep the servants out of earshot. Remind them not to spread any words. Otherwise you’ll all be punished.”
The eunuch shuddered and nodded before leaving gingerly. Nan Jihan stayed rooted to the spot for a long time. Finally, he sent for his men to look into Nan Xun’s disappearance and put more people to keep an eye on Jun Huang.
Jun Huang came to not long after. She opened her eyes slowly and realized that she was on her own. She propped herself up. Although she was still a little weak, there was an ease in her movement she hadn’t felt for a long time. The poison in her body must have been cleansed.
She rose and walked out of the building. Her maid was shocked and happy in equal measure to see her up and about. She told her that the soldiers in the backyard had been sent by Nan Jihan to protect her. Jun Huang assumed Nan Jihan was merely feeling paranoid.
“It’s a beautiful day. I’ve been staying in bed for a long time. It’s getting boring. I’d like to go for a walk in the royal garden.”
Jun Huang spoke with a smile. The maid agreed and retrieved a cloak for her before following her to the garden.
Flowers bloomed all around the garden as if it’d been spring. Jun Huang walked leisurely, her face soft and her eyes calm.
“It’s infuriating that she looks down on everyone just because she’s beautiful,” Consort Li said to another consort. “His Majesty has been frequenting her residence for the past few days. Is she really a fox spirit?”
The other consort is a shrewd one. She covered a smile. “Perhaps she is. You’ve suffered because of her a while ago. It must be karma that she fell ill.”
“Ah, I hear that His Majesty was with her when Northern Qi’s messenger came. If Prince Nan Xun hadn’t gone missing, His Majesty would still be by her side.”
Jun Huang didn’t care about their insults, but she paled and panicked when she heard about Nan Xun’s disappearance. She knew it was very likely to be real.
She went off to seek out Nan Jihan, but ran into Nan Guyue first. The princess looked at her worriedly, her brows furrowed. Her expression was telling enough.
Jun Huang stared at her without a word, but didn’t act out like the siblings had worried she would. She took a deep breath and managed to smile at the princess. “Tell me the truth.”
Nan Guyue wanted to tell her to not push herself, but Jun Huang shook her head. She was fine. She just wanted an answer.
Nan Guyue knew Jun Huang was clever and terrifyingly composed. Most of the time, she looked like a goddess stumbling upon the mortal world, every minute change of her expression captivating. Even now, with her pale face and the dark shadow under her eyes, she was still more beautiful than most people.
Nan Guyue sighed. She couldn’t stand Jun Huang’s cool gaze. After making sure that no one was around, she nodded and said, “As you’ve heard, Nan Xun went missing because of a traitor in the army. But don’t worry too much. No news is good news in this situation, isn’t it?”
Jun Huang felt as if all her blood had drained out of her body, her face becoming as pale as a sheet. Nan Guyue quickly put an arm around her to support her. Jun Huang had just woken up. Nothing should happen to her.
“Are you alright?”
“Please do me a favor, princess.” Despite her pale complexion, Jun Huang was still stunning. The pain in her eyes made Nan Guyue’s throat constrict. She knew what Jun Huang would ask for, but she couldn’t turn her down.
“Have you thought it through?” Nan Guyue managed to ask.
Jun Huang nodded without hesitation. “I must seek him out. Even if you refuse to help, I’ll find a way to do it myself. Since fate has brought you to me, I hope you’ll understand my reasons and help me leave the palace. No matter what happens, I’ll take full responsibility.”
Nan Guyue frowned. “Stop that. Of course I’ll help you. I’ll make the arrangements for you. But not now. You’ve just woken up and are still vulnerable. The long journey is going to be dangerous for you. You must rest and recover first. I’ll take care of the preparations during this time.”
“What has happened has happened. You can’t change the past. I know you’re seeking comfort for yourself, but your health comes first. I hope you’ll understand.”
After a long pause, Jun Huang nodded.
A few days passed. Nan Guyue honored her promise and arranged for Jun Huagn to travel to the border. As soon as she reached her destination, though, a group of men took her away. She could tell they were under Nan Xun’s command. She kept quiet on the way, holding onto her yearning for Nan Xun.
As she expected, the men respectfully led her to Nan Xun. It turned out that Nan Xun had been notified when Jun Huang left Southern Mu. However, he had to stay in hiding, so he took her to him in this way.
Jun Huang smiled softly, looking at Nan Xun from afar. Nan Xun missed her dearly after the time they’d been apart. He rushed to pull her into his arms. He’d been dreaming about this moment.
He explained what happened. There was indeed a mole in the army, but he’d discovered the mole before anything bad could happen. It was his plan to pretend to fall into Eastern Wu’s trap.
Jun Huang finally relaxed, but she was unwilling to be apart with Nan Xun.
Nan Xun didn’t want her to leave, either. They moved into a small village at the border. Nan Xun kept an eye on the battles and planned accordingly, while Jun Huang took care of the chores and sometimes accompanied him to walk around the area.
The locals didn’t know who they were. They looked just like any regular couple. The only thing special about them was the way they fit together. The beautiful woman and the handsome man made the perfect pair. The neighbors often teased them for their intimacy. Jun Huang always lowered her eyes and smiled. Nan Xun knew she was feeling shy.
There was a pagoda tree in the village which Nan Xun and Jun Haung often sat under. Jun Huang lay in his arms, watching the fire and smoke of battles from a distance. Occasionally, Nan Xun would talk to her about what was happening on the battlefields. Jun Huang listened attentively, silently wishing for peace to descend, even for a little while.
“Do you blame me for coming to find you so suddenly?” Jun Huang asked, her voice so soft it could be lost in the wind.
Nan Xun lowered his head and dropped a kiss on her forehead. “I don’t.” He chuckled. “I’m pleasantly surprised. My time here seemed endless before you came, but with you here, with my beloved by my side, nothing seems too arduous to endure. I like a simple life with you.”
He paused. “Everything is going according to our plan. I was worried you’d be bored.”
“Why would I be bored when you’re with me?” Jun Huang said slowly. “I only hope the war can end soon. The horror it brought made my heart ache. All the regular people want is peace.”