Nan Xun was quiet for a moment. Jun Huang had a point.
He nodded. “It’s a good idea.”
Jun Huang gave him a faint smile. She was getting tired. Nan Xun noted her red hands and cheeks with a pang of sympathy and suggested that they returned to the camp. Jun Huang nodded. They brushed off the snow on them and walked back.
Their footprints had been buried under a thick layer of snow, but fortunately, they hadn’t gone far from the camp and could still see it from a distance. Jun Huang felt a little lightheaded, but she didn’t think much of it. She assumed it was just her exhaustion.
They parted after arriving at the camp. Jun Huang returned to the tent, while Nan Xun went off to discuss the idea of camouflage with the officers.
Jun Huang’s idea won everyone’s approval. After ordering them to make the necessary arrangements, Nan Xun returned to his tent.
He parted the fabric and saw Jun Huang lying on the bed without putting on a blanket. Frowning, he lit a candle and walked closer. Her red face told him she’d caught a cold.
He carefully pulled her into his arms. Jun Huang opened her eyes to look at him, her eyes misty from discomfort. She rubbed at her forehead with a frown and croaked, “My head hurts and my limbs are weak. Is it the poison?”
“You must have caught a cold.” Nan Xun poured her a cup of water. “Have some. I’ll go get your master.”
He carefully fed her the water. Jun Huang was thirsty. The water made her feel a little better.
Nan Xun helped her take off her damp outer robe and covered her with a blanket. He then retrieved a brazier to warm up the tent. Only then did he leave to find Oleg Cragfiend.
Oleg Cragfiend immediately followed Nan Xun to the tent and took Jun Huang’s pulse. He concluded that it was a simple cold, not the poison. Letting out a sigh of relief, he had someone brew the medicine he prescribed and reminded Nan Xun to take care of Jun Huang. Then he walked out of the tent
The medicine was soon made. Nan Xun took the bowl and tried to wake Jun Huang, but failed.. He pulled her close and spoon-fed her. Fortunately, she was awake enough to swallow.
After that, Nan Xun retrieved some hot water and wiped her face clean. Then he lay down next to her.
At midnight, he was woken up by Jun Huang’s voice. He opened his eyes to see her curling into herself under the blanket, muttering, “Cold...”
Nan Xun swallowed down the gulp in his throat and pulled her closer, putting his arms around her slim form. He blamed himself for her discomfort.
Jun Huang hadn’t had any peace since they got together. Every day, she was forced to work hard for something.
His eyes stung. A drop of tear landed on Jun Huang’s delicate neck. She was too tired to notice that a proud man had cried for her.
When Jun Huang woke up, it was morning. There was no one in the tent with her.
She had a massive headache. Rubbing at her temples didn’t help, but the heat of the brazier made her feel a little better.
Someone walked into the tent. She looked up to see Nan Xun walking toward her with a bowl of hot medicine. She wanted to smile at him, but the bitter smell made her scrunch up her nose.
Her reaction didn’t escape Nan Xun’s attention. He shook his head resignedly and warmed himself up next to the brazier before approaching Jun Huang.
“Thank heavens you’re awake. I thought you’d sleep through the day.” Nan Xun sat down next to her and relaxed somewhat. His joking words told of his true feelings.
Jun Huang beamed at him, her eyes crinkling. Nan Xun sighed and fed her the medicine.
Jun Huang’s smile dropped. One spoonful was bitter enough to deter her. She had thought she would never fear anything bitter again after the myriad of medicines she’d been given, but this one was particularly difficult to swallow. She looked pitiful with her brows furrowed.
“It’s just a cold. I’ll be fine after some rest. All medicine is toxic in some way. I already have poison in my system. Isn’t this only going to make things worse?”
Jun Huang looked up at Nan Xun expectantly.
Nan Xun paused. He didn’t realize what Jun Huang’s true intention was, and instead blamed himself for failing to protect her. They had worked so hard to cleanse her of poison, and now she was inflicted with another kind. He’d failed her.
Jun Huang could read her guilt. She sighed inwardly and looked down at the bowl. She wanted to assure him, but she didn’t want to take the medicine. Her face clouded.
After a while, she sighed in resignation. “You know me. I simply didn’t want to have the medicine and misspoke. I wasn’t trying to blame you. Besides, I was the reason why I was poisoned, not you.”
Nan Xun looked up at her. Her smile had given way to faint melancholy. He felt a lump in his throat.
“Good medicine is often bitter,” he said eventually. “It’ll be difficult for you to recover without any medicine. Please take it.”
“But it’s so unbearably bitter,” Jun Huang muttered.
Nan Xun thought for a moment. He had an idea. He drank from the ceramic bowl and kissed Jun Huang’s pale lips, passing the medicine into her mouth. Caught off guard, Jun Huang barely even tasted the bitterness.
Nan Xun was so close, and she could still feel his soft lips even after he’d pulled away. She was both warmed and mortified.
Oblivious to her embarrassment, Nan Xun took out a pack of candied dates and fed her one. The sweetness jerked Jun Huang out of her trance. She looked at him curiously. “Where did you get the dates when it’s snowing everywhere?”
Nan Xun blushed and got too flustered to say a complete sentence. He shut his mouth and cleared his throat, changing the subject.
After Nan Xun left the tent, Oleg Cragfiend came. He relaxed once he made sure Jun Huang was no longer running a fever.
“You don’t pay enough attention to your health despite knowing your own condition,” he said disapprovingly. “Your stubbornness is going to end up hurting you. You should’ve stayed in the camp. Don’t wander around unless you have a good reason.”
Embarrassed, Jun Huang ate another candied date to distract herself. Oleg Cragfiend stopped ranting when he noticed and chuckled.
“What’s so funny, master?” Jun Huang asked curiously, looking up at him.
“Do you know where the candied dates came from?” Oleg Cragfiend asked instead of answering.
Jun Huang shook her head. Oleg Cragfiend nodded in understanding and said, “Before sunrise, Nan Xun woke up and went all the way to the town to buy the candied dates. Worried that they’d be freezing cold when he returned and end up upsetting your stomach, he kept the pack of dates in his arms. We thought it was something precious when he came back. Well, it is pretty precious to you now.”
Oleg Cragfiend laughed heartily. Jun Huang flushed red, at a loss of words. After some more teasing, Oelg Cragfiend left in a good mood.
Her flushed face was what Nan Xun saw when he came back to the tent. Worried that the cold radiating from his body would make her ill, he stayed at the mouth of the tent and waited for his body to warm up. Jun Huang looked over at him.
He took a deep breath and walked up to her. He belatedly realized that his hands were still cold after reaching out for her. He could only use his forehead to take her temperature. Jun Huang blushed even harder with his handsome face being so close.
“You aren’t running a fever anymore,” said Nan Xun, frowning. “Why is your face still red?”
He didn’t know the answer, but she did. She cleared her throat and leaned backward, putting some distance between them. Eventually, she calmed down, and her face was no longer heating up. Nan Xun sighed in relief.
Jun Huang stared at him for a long time. “There’s no need for you to make the trip. I’ll be fine without the candied dates. You should’ve rested longer instead of going to the town.”
Nan Xun blinked in surprise, but then realized that Oelg Cragfiend had come to talk to her. He sighed, ruffling her hair. “It’s nothing. I’ll do anything for you. Even if you just want to have a taste, I’ll still get the dates for you. I don’t want the bitter taste to linger in your mouth.”
Nan Xun was being earnest. Jun Huang knew he was too proud a man to trick her with pretty words. Moved, she threw herself into his arms.
Nan Xun stilled. He worried that his body would still be too cold for her, but he didn’t want to push her away. After some hesitation, he put his arms around her.