“Hush.” Nan Xun covered Jun Huang’s mouth. She looked at him questioningly and held her breath. Nan Xun chuckled as he took out a dagger. Before she could react, the dagger shot out from his hand like lightning. Nan Xun jumped to his feet and walked in the direction he’d thrown the dagger.
With a blush, Jun Huang sat up. She quickly calmed herself and cleared her throat before approaching Nan Xun. Once she got close, she realized that Nan Xun had hit a rabbit.
“We’ll eat something first.” Nan Xun turned to face her, his hands still skinning the rabbit.
Jun Huang nodded and got out of the way. She led the horse to a nearby tree and tied it to the tree trunk. Then she collected some grass for the horse. The work left her a little breathless. She turned to Nan Xun and saw that he had finished preparing the meat.
After dinner, Jun Huang lay down on the ground and looked up at the sky. For a moment, she felt small and insignificant. A lost expression flashed through her face.
That didn’t escape Nan Xun’s notice. He’d been keeping an eye on her. “Come on, let’s check out the woods.”
He got to his feet and reached out for Jun Huang.
Jun Huang came to herself and glanced at Nan Xun with a slight smile. She took his hand and let him help her up. He pulled her into his arms.
This time, Nan Xun had Jun Huang sit behind him on the horse. He held the reign in one hand and a bow in the other. Jun Huang put her arms around his waist from behind and rested her face against his back.
Her trust pleased Nan Xun. With a smile, he silently rode into the woods.
The woods were difficult to navigate, but there were more prey to be found. Nan Xun kept an eye on Jun Huang. Whenever they came up to some tree branches, he’d warned her beforehand. If there were too many obstacles for them to pass, he’d cut them down.
Soon, they reached the heart of the woods. They could hear animals scuttling around.
With practiced ease, Nan Xun shot an arrow and hit a hare. It fell to the ground. Jun Huang looked at Nan Xun, entranced.
As if reading her mind, Nan Xun twisted around and moved Jun Huang to the front easily. She held onto his arms, startled, shooting him a glare when he laughed quietly.
“Come on, give it a try.” Nan Xun handed his bow to Jun Huang. Without hesitation, she readied an arrow and narrowed her eyes. She let go when she spotted another hare.
She hadn’t put in enough force. The arrow hit the hare’s foot, but not enough to cripple it. It fled and vanished into the woods. Jun Huang was a little disappointed.
Nan Xun pinched her cheek and said reassuringly, “It’s impressive enough for you to hit it on the first try. Besides, we’ve had enough to eat. If you got that one, we wouldn’t be able to finish it.”
Jun Huang nodded and dismounted with Nan Xun. She idly watched from the side as Nan Xun easily skinned the hare. She’d like to help, but Nan Xun didn’t want her to get her hands dirty. He shot her down with a wave of his hand.
They were having a good time. Unfortunately, the sky suddenly darkened. A storm was coming.
Nan Xun looked at the sky through the webs of branches and frowned. He shot to his feet.
Jun Huang noticed the change in the weather as well. “It’s going to rain.”
Nan Xun nodded. “We don’t have our things with us. We should find shelter.”
They took their belongings and left.
The weather changed suddenly without giving them any breathing room. Soon, big drops of rain fell from the sky.
Nan Xun kept Jun Huang close and took off his robe to shield her from the rain. They ran. As soon as they spotted a cave, they entered it without thinking.
“Stay here. I’ll check inside.” Nan Xun put his drenched robe on the ground. He improvised a simple torch and went further into the cave. He only relaxed after making sure there was nothing unusual.
Nan Xun had been focusing on keeping Jun Huang dry, shielding her with both his robe and his body. She didn’t get wet at all. He, on the contrary, was half drenched.
Jun Huang frowned at his wet clothes when he returned. “You’re going to get sick. You should start a fire and dry your clothes. It’s pouring, and there’s no telling when the rain will stop.”
Nan Xun shot her a suggestive look. Embarrassed, Jun Huang coughed and looked away. Nan Xun started a fire and took off his clothes, draping it near the heat source. He didn't seem at all bashful about being topless.
He recalled the first time they had stayed in a cave together. Never would he have dreamed about becoming her partner in life. They’d been through a lot together. It was fate that made them who they were.
Once his clothes were dried, he noticed that Jun Huang was dozing off. After some consideration, he put his robe around her shoulders. She looked at him, her eyes reflecting the fire.
“Get some sleep. We’ll leave after the rain stops.” Nan Xun gently patted her back.
The wind had been chilling outside. Within the cave, the fire warmed Jun Huang to the core. She had been tired from their time in the woods. She nodded and closed her eyes, laying against Nan Xun’s chest.
Nan Xun looked down at her face, his heart softening. He kept himself perfectly still in order not to disturb her sleep.
Past midnight, the rain still hadn’t stopped. He was getting tired as well. He fell asleep with his arms around Jun Huang.
When Jun Huang woke up early the next morning, she was lying on the ground with Nan Xun’s robe covering her. Nan Xun wasn’t with her. She jerked up and spotted Nan Xun roasting a rabbit not far away. She sighed in relief, her pale face regaining some of its color.
Her reaction didn’t escape Nan Xun’s notice. He put the rabbit on a makeshift rack and walked up to Jun Huang, patting her back reassuringly. “Get ready for the day,” he said gently. “When you’re done, breakfast will be ready.”
Jun Huang finally recovered from her unreasonable fit of worry. She coughed awkwardly and walked outside. She soon reached a creek. The water was clear enough for her to see the fish inhabiting it.
She untied her hair and let out a deep breath. It was a good thing that she hadn’t done a complicated hairdo. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to untie it herself.
Distracted, she quickly got herself cleaned and tied her hair up again. She smiled at her own reflection.
She splashed some water at her face, clearing her fuzzy mind. Then she went back to staring at the water. Her heart was elsewhere.
Her cheeks had gone red because of the chilling cold. Images flashed through her mind. It surprised her how the snippets of memory matched what had happened last night.
Noting that Jun Huang hadn’t moved for a while, Nan Xun rushed to her side, worried that something had gone wrong. He realized that Jun Huang’s eyes were unfocused.
“What is it?” he asked worriedly, his brows furrowed.
The familiar voice jerked Jun Huang out of her thoughts. She managed a smile and said after some hesitation, “Have we sought shelter in a cave before?”
That caught Nan Xun off guard. He didn’t expect this impromptu trip to make her remember their time together. In a fit of excitement, he told her about what had happened before. Jun Huang blushed when she heard the story.
She shot him a glare and looked away, trying to hide her bashfulness. Nan Xun noticed the red of her ears. He didn’t point it out.
Jun Huang was easily embarrassed. There were things he shouldn’t put into words. He didn’t want her to feel uneasy.
Nan Xun took the roasted rabbit and tore off a leg for Jun Huang. She accepted it silently. They made quick work of the rabbit and prepared to return.
On their way back, Jun Huang asked for another story from their past. Nan Xun obliged. The time had come. He believed Jun Huang would recover her memory sooner or later.
Jun Huang wasn’t as convinced. Every story Nan Xun told her sounded familiar to her, but she couldn’t remember anything clearly. Still, it was cause for celebration. Her lips curved into a smile.
Jun Huang still hadn’t recovered from her joy even when they arrived at the manor. When she saw Oleg Cragfiend waiting for them at the door, though, her smiled dropped.
Nan Xun spotted the poison master as well. Belatedly, he realized that he’d forgotten to notify the old man before taking Jun Huang outside.
“Don’t you know the condition she’s in?” Oleg Cragfiend snapped before Nan Xun could explain. “What if something went wrong?”
Nan Xun knew he had made a mistake, so he quietly let Oleg Cragfiend vent. He knew the old man was worried about Jun Huang. He wasn’t going to fault him for that.