Oleg Cragfiend’s expression darkened, which worried Nan Xun. Once the poison master dropped Jun Huang’s wrist, Nan Xun asked, “How is she? Is her life in danger? Hasn’t she been cured? Is there any residual poison in her system?”
Oleg Cragfiend glanced at Nan Xun coolly. “If you think only life-threatening ailment is worthy of your attention - ”
“That’s not what I meant. Please forgive me for failing to express myself properly due to my concern. I had a feeling that she wasn’t entirely healthy the past couple of days. I lost my calm when she fainted.” Nan Xun explained awkwardly. He didn’t expect Oleg Cragfiend to take him as such a cold person. If it’d been anyone else, he wouldn’t have said anything, but it was Jun Huang’s master. He had to put aside his pride and defend himself.
Oleg Cragfiend didn’t want to start an argument. He knew what Nan Xun actually meant. He was just too angry at Jun Huang for disregarding her health and lost his calm in the heat of the moment. He sighed. “As you can see, she’s not entirely recovered yet. She fainted because she was overwhelmed by emotions, which told us there was a problem still. It may not be life-threatening, but we have to treat it seriously.”
“I can’t say for sure what her prognosis is. We have to wait and observe to identify the cause.”
Nan Xun nodded after a long bemused pause.
Jun Huang came to not long after. She felt lightheaded. Nan Xun helped her sit up. Her face was heartbreakingly pale and sickly.
“What’s wrong with me?” Jun Huang asked calmly with her eyes locked on her master.
Nan Xun responded before Oleg Cragfiend could, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine as long as you rest well for the next few days.”
Jun Huang chuckled and glanced at Nan Xun with piercing eyes. Nan Xun’s breath hitched. Jun Huang had always been level-headed, but sometimes she still surprised him with her keen observation.
She knew Nan Xun wasn’t telling the truth. “You don’t have to lie to me. It’ll just make me feel useless. Is my life in danger?”
Oleg Cragfiend frowned. “What nonsense are you spouting off? Don’t think too much. You aren’t in a good condition, but it’s not going to threaten your life. I can help you recover.”
Oleg Cragfiend bid her farewell and walked outside with Nan Xun at his tail. He’d decided to go search for rare medicinal herbs for Jun Huang. He told Nan Xun to take good care of her.
Nan Xun saw the poison master off and returned to the room to find Jun Huang standing by the window looking into the distance, her expression unreadable. Her face was so pale it seemed almost translucent. It broke his heart.
Nan Xun walked up to her and put his arms around her slim body, whispering, “Will you marry me, Jun Huang?”
Jun Huang turned to him, trying to discern his intentions. Nan Xun met her gaze openly, his eyes filled with adoration. With the willow catkins flying in the air as their backdrop, they looked like a match made in heaven.
It took some time for Jun Huang to recover from her surprise. She took a deep breath and asked, “Why?”
Nan Xun didn’t want to lie to her. “It’s said that marriage can drive away bad luck. Perhaps you’ll get better after we get married.”
“I don’t want to force the marriage on you just so I can recover,” Jun Huang said with a frown. “How am I going to live with that?”
Nan Xun caught her fingers, his heart skipping, and said in a loving voice, “We love each other. Why should we care about formalities? Besides, I can’t wait to have you as my wife. I hope you’ll give me a chance.”
Jun Huang felt a lump in her throat. She looked up at Nan Xun. There were a million words threatening to burst out, but in the end, she lay her head against his chest silently with a smile, listening to his strong heartbeats.
A woman’s bashfulness was conserved for the one meant for her. Even the usually composed Jun Huang couldn’t stop herself from blushing. Her eyes lit up with such pure joy it was difficult to look away. Many would have willingly devote their lives to her.
“I wish to take your hands till our hair turn grey. My feelings for you will not change.” Nan Xun whispered into Jun Huang’s ears, his words not of desires, but of deep love and intimacy. They weren’t meant to put red in her cheeks but to express his true feelings.
Jun Huang smiled and looked up at Nan Xun, her expression calm, but her eyes filled with love. “I wish your heart is aligned with mine always.”
Qi Yun soon heard about Nan Xun and Jun Huang’s upcoming wedding. In panic, he rushed to visit them from the border city. Before he stepped into the premise, he heard the two of them chatting and laughing.
He slowed down his pace and gently opened the door. They were playing a game of go. Jun Huang sat crookedly on a divan with a black stone in her hand, her delicate and fair fingers look even more alluring against the dark color.
Jun Huang was winning. She laughed and teased Nan Xun for being bad at the game. Nan Xun gladly accepted the remark and handed her a cup of hot tea, reminding her not to drink it too quickly.
All his attention was on Jun Huang. No wonder he couldn’t play the game properly.
“Since you’re here, how about a game?” Jun Huang noticed Qi Yun first. Or perhaps they had both noticed him and simply kept quiet about it.
Nan Xun rose to let him take a seat. Qi Yun could only take the offer.
The man in charge of planning the wedding walked in, saying that he had some details to confirm with Nan Xun. Since Jun Huang clearly had something to tell Qi Yun, Nan Xun nodded and left with the man, but not before telling her to take care of herself and ask for help should she feel ill.
Jun Huang snorted fondly at his nagging and saw him off. When she turned back, Qi Yun was staring at her. She paused and smiled at him.
“You must have heard that Nan Xun and I are getting married,” Jun Huang stated rather than asked.
Qi Yun nodded. He roughly sorted the stones and made his first move before looking up at Jun Huang. He started to say something, but for reasons unbeknownst to him, he stopped himself short and couldn’t recover the right words.
As if she could understand his feelings, Jun Huang chuckled and lowered her eyes. “It’s going to happen sooner or later. We love each other, and we’ve been through a lot together. Since the opportunity has presented itself, we don’t want to wait any longer.”
“Is this really what you want?” Qi Yun knew he had no right to question her, but he couldn’t stop himself. He wanted her to give it another consideration and don’t get carried away by emotions.
Jun Huang laughed, her eyes twinkling and her lips curved. “I’m still a woman. It’s only natural I’ll like to get married to the man I love. Do you take me as a naive girl? I know what I want and what’s good for me, so please don’t try to change my mind. I’m in a good mood and don’t want to resent anyone for saying the wrong things. Do you get what I mean?”
Qi Yun opened his mouth, but then swallowed his words. He sighed and placed another stone. With a deep inhale, he nodded, both to her question and to reality. “We’ve known each other since we were little. I’m not going to stop you from getting what you truly want. Just remember that there’s someone else who’s willing to protect you.”
Jun Huang’s smile grew brighter hearing Qi Yun’s acceptance. “I’d like to ask you for a favor.”
“What is it?”
“We both want you to witness our marriage,” she said. “Are you willing to?”
Qi Yun widened his eyes. After the shock came a bitter feeling. His eyes stung. He knew Jun Huang was a decisive person, but he didn’t expect her to cut all the feelings he harbored for her in this way. He wanted to say no, but the hopeful look in her eyes made him pause. Say yes, a voice said in his head. Even if that’ll hurt you.
He took a deep breath and smiled. “Alright, I’ll do it.”
Jun Huang sighed in relief and visibly relaxed. She started coughing. Qi Yun hurriedly clapped her on the back to help her breathe.
The villagers were unusually friendly. When they heard that Nan Xun and Jun Huang were getting married, they offered to help at no cost. Some were even more passionate about the wedding than Nan Xun’s personal guards. In no time, they’d prepared for a simple but heartwarming wedding.
The day before the wedding, Jun Huang was not allowed to see Nan Xun. She had a pleasant chat with a group of young women. They shared their views about their ideal partner. They wanted the men they loved to ride a horse to marry them one day.
The next morning, Jun Huang was woken up by the other girls at the crack of dawn. An older woman, who was the one to dress and put makeup on all the brides in the village, had come as well. She brought the wedding gown she’d kept in a hidden corner of her closet and offered it to Jun Huang. The dress was adorned with patterns of phoenix embroidered with golden threads.