Jun Huang chuckled, her laugh desolate like the night wind. Nan Xun pursed his lips without a word, his eyes filled with reluctance. Jun Huang lowered her head and didn’t say anything.
They stayed like that for some time until they couldn’t afford to. Jun Huang met Nan Xun’s gaze. “Don’t worry too much about me after my departure.”
“You are my wife,” Nan Xun replied. “How can I not worry for you? My only wish is for you to put your safety first and return as soon as you can.”
Jun Huang schooled her expression and took a deep breath. She gave Nan Xun a final nod before walking out of the tent. She ran into Ji Bo on her way to the stable. He was dressed in a silver robe.
“Where are you going?” Ji Bo turned to her when he heard her footsteps and arched an eyebrow at her.
Jun Huang came to a stop. “I’m just going back to the village to retrieve something. It’s easier for me to go at night because of my identity. You know that as well. Why haven’t you gone to sleep?”
Ji Bo didn’t question her explanation. He looked up at the sky and said after a pause, “Couldn’t sleep. Figure I can use the time to observe the stars like people used to do in ancient times.”
Jun Huang’s eyes flashed, trying to decipher Ji Bo’s words, but couldn’t identify any hidden meaning. “See anything interesting?”
She averted her gaze when Ji Bo turned to her, her lips curved. Ji Bo shook his head. “Nothing. You should go and return soon. That’ll lower the risk of running into trouble.”
Jun Huang nodded and walked away. When she paused and turned to check, Ji Bo had disappeared already, leaving only the moon as her companion. She frowned. Something was bothering her, but she couldn’t pinpoint the source.
She sighed. Perhaps she was being overly sensitive. She made her way to the stable and relaxed when she was sure that no one was watching. She picked a white horse with a meek temper, sorted out its reign, and mounted it. She looked over at the camp from afar, letting out a sigh. She then nudged the horse to direct it into a narrow path.
Nan Xun had told her about the route. She soon reached the outskirts of the Eastern Wu camp. She could hear noises coming from a distance, but she wasn’t going to stay and check what’s making the noises. Keeping her guard up, she traversed the area with gritted teeth, doing all she could to not make any sound.
The city gate entered her view. She got off the horse and looked up at the dawning sky. She quickly took off her armor and changed into a green robe, disguising as a scholar to avoid attracting attention.
Not long after she was ready, the city gate opened. There was now more traffic in the area. Jun Huang left her horse at a relay station outside the city and paid them to take care of it for her. She then took out a foldable fan and walked to the gate.
Security check had become stricter these couple of days. Jun Huang let them search her. She’d hidden everything that might expose her real identity.
“Get in.” A soldier pushed her through the gate. She stumbled and almost fell. Fortunately, a young man near her caught her.
Jun Huang frowned. Did every Eastern Wu soldier act like that? She pushed aside her anger and thanked the man who had helped her before walking away.
She didn’t immediately visit the operation base Nan Xun’s men were supposed to be. She’d just entered the city. She didn’t want any eyes on her. She wandered around the city like a regular tourist for some time and only made her way to the tavern in the afternoon.
There were a lot of patrons from different walks of life. Some dressed expensively, and others dressed in peasants’ clothes. They provided good cover for her. She looked up at the sign and waved her fan.
“Are you seeking a place to rest?” a clerk ran up to her and asked with a smile.
Jun Huang considered the clerk and realized that he’d assumed she was a regular patron. She nodded with a smile and walked into the tavern.
Out of her view, the clerk stared after her for a moment. He was a young man. He’d seen many powerful people in the tavern, but not someone as beautiful as Jun Huang. Her smile made him feel lightheaded.
When he recovered from his trance, Jun Huang had disappeared into the tavern. He hurriedly chased after her and asked, “Where is the esteemed guest from? What is your business here? Are you on your own, or have you invited friends?”
The clerk babbled away. Jun Huang turned to him and said quietly, “Just me. Serve me your specialties and find me a booth. I don’t want to sit with other people. It’s too noisy.”
The clerk nodded in understanding. This must be a scion from an important family. He took her to a booth on the third floor. “This is a quiet place. No one will bother you. Would you like a songstress to perform for you?”
“No,” Jun Huang said, annoyed by the clerk’s eagerness. He noticed her reaction and left with an awkward smile.
Delicacies were soon brought to the table. Jun Huang frowned and turned to the clerk. “I’d like to talk to your superior.”
The clerk didn’t know why she’d suddenly look so cold. He didn’t dare make her wait, worried that he’d done something wrong. If he was to blame, he’d lose his job.
“One moment, please.” The clerk ran off.
Jun Huang placed her chopsticks on the table and rose to her feet, looking out of the window at the street below.
The clerk returned with the owner of the tavern. The owner looked at the graceful man who didn’t look at all like someone who would stir up trouble for no good reason. He asked for confirmation from the clerk before approaching Jun Huang and clearing his throat. “What can I help you with? Have we done something to anger you?“
Jun Huang turned around with a faint smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She picked up her chopsticks and pointed at one of the dishes. “If I’m not mistaken, this dish cannot be consumed along with the fish. What is the meaning of this?”
The owner rushed to the table and, indeed, the cooks had made a mistake, serving dishes that clashed with each other. He smiled apologetically. “Something must have gone wrong in the kitchen. I hope you’ll forgive us. As an apology, this meal is our treat.”
The clerk stood at the door, too nervous to get any closer. He didn’t expect the graceful scion to have such a sharp tongue. It intimidated him.
“I hear the tavern has a treasure - a jade hidden in the stomach of a fish. Is it true?” Jun Huang asked in a voice only the two of them could hear.
The owner looked at her in surprise. Jun Huang smiled an impeccable smile at him. He nodded in the end and patted her on the shoulder. They exchanged a glance.
The owner took a step back and turned to call out for the clerk. “The gentleman is my friend. Lead him to the backyard after he finished his meal.”
The clerk was confused, but he nodded. Jun Huang sat back down at the table and started eating. The way she moved was graceful and pleasing to the eyes.
After some time, Jun Huang put away her bowl and chopsticks and rose to walk out of the door. She nodded at the clerk, who hurriedly led her to the backyard.
They walked through the winding hallway and came to an open place. Suddenly, there was a sound of air splitting. Before she could turn around, something hit her head and she collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
There was no telling how much time had passed until Jun Huang came to. The pain in her head gradually subsided. Warily, she kept her eyes shut and maintained her posture as she listened for any sounds.
There were footsteps outside, and a faint rustling. After a long time, she opened her eyes. Both her arms and legs were tied. She struggled to sit up and realized she was in a firewood storage.
She noticed an unmoving man laying not far from her. He dressed just like the owner of the tavern, but he wasn’t that man. Realization dawned on her. She carefully moved toward him and kicked him. He winced and squirmed before finally waking up.
His eyes lit up when he saw Jun Huang, but dimmed as soon as he noticed that she was tied up as well.
Jun Huang frowned and rose to her feet with the support of the wall. She then pushed herself to jump toward the tavern owner through her pain from being tied up by hemp rope and strained herself to take off the cloth stopping him from talking.
He spat, feeling a little better. After considering Jun Huang for a long while, he asked warily, “Are you sent by Prince Nan Xun?”