Chapter 107: Bite
The air was chilly in the cave. If they didn't start a fire, they would catch a cold. Fortunately, Jun Huang had brought a flintstone with her. There was also some dry grass on the ground.
Once the fire was started, Jun Huang squatted down and rubbed at her cold fingers.
Someone like her has most likely has never been in such a situation before, Nan Xun thought as he watched Jun Huang. With a faint smile, he said, "This won't do. Keeping wet clothes on is going to stop you from warming up. You should take them off and dry them in front of the fire."
They sat across each other with the fire between them. The warm glow created an air of intimacy. Jun Huang She took off her white jade cap, letting her wet hair down. She looked over at Nan Xun and found him looking back at her.
Is she blushing, Nan Xun wondered, or is it merely a trick of the light?
Jun Huang hesitated. A gust of wind swept through the woods. She shuddered, her teeth chattering. If she stubbornly insisted on keeping her wet clothes on, she might not be able to endure until they found Mister Ji Bo.
Putting aside her reservations, she turned away from Nan Xun and untied the waistband of her outer robe. With her eyes downcast, she took off the robe and assembled a crude drying rack from dry branches. She draped her robe on the rack and sat back down with, hugging her arms close to her chest.
Nan Xun didn't say anything. He knew that as a woman Jun Huang must feel uneasy being so thinly-clad with a man present. He himself found it inappropriate for him to stay in her proximity. He silently moved towards the mouth of the cave, ignoring the wet fabric clinging to his body.
Jun Huang's inner clothes had turned dry about the same time as her outer robe. She put on the robe. Only then did she realize that Nan Xun was crouching at the mouth of the cave, all wet and uncomfortable. When the wind grew stronger, droplets of rain were brought further inside and fell on his head.
She thought back to how Nan Xun had disregarded his own safety for her. It didn't sit well with her to let him suffered the weather like that. "The wind is strong. You should come inside. Dry your clothes. Otherwise you will get sick."
Nan Xun cocked his head in bemusement. Taking a deep breath, he nodded and untied his robe. Jun Huang quickly turned away. When she turned back, Nan Xun had taken off his topwear. Shirtless, he dried his clothes before the fire.
Jun Huang looked away after a quick glance. She touched the tip of her nose in embarrassment. She didn't know what to say to break the awkward silence, so instead, she picked up a stick and started writing on the ground.
It was getting darker. Jun Huang walked to the edge of the cave and looked up. It didn't seem like the rain would break any time soon. She sighed. Nan Xun's shadow guards still had not found them.
Once his clothes were dried, Nan Xun put them back on and glanced at Jun Huang, which was enough for him to read Jun Huang's thoughts. "No one expected the weather to be so harsh," he said comfortingly. "There's no use to dwell on it. It's late. My men are not going to find us tonight. We can also go search for them once the rain stopped. Your body isn't at its top condition. You should rest."
Jun Huang frowned. "What about you?"
Nan Xun chuckled. "I'm a man, and I rarely get sick. Tonight I'll stand watch. You can sleep easy."
Jun Huang was tired. She had spent half a day traversing the mountain, and she had been soaked by rain. Now that her body was getting warm, she felt drowsiness hitting her in waves. She looked at Nan Xun, who gave her a smile and gestured for her to lie down.
It was a waste of time to continue arguing. Jun Huang nodded and lay down on the ground, not caring if the ground was dirty. It didn't take long for her to fall asleep. Her breathing was shallow and slow.
Nan Xun forced himself to stay awake. They didn't know what dangers await them in this mountain. One of them had to keep watch. They couldn't take the risk.
He added branches and twigs to the fire for the entire night, keeping the cave warm. When day broke it finally stopped raining. Basked in the sunlight, he stood up and stretched his arms, relaxing his tense muscles.
He heard footsteps coming from the outside. He drew his long sword.
"Your Highness! Gentleman Feng! Where are you?" From a distance came one of the shadow guards' voice. Nan Xun let out a breath and slowly sheathed his weapon.
He knelt down before Jun Huang and patted her lightly on the shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open, unfocused, but then quickly lit up as she sat up. She looked around before her eyes came to focus on Nan Xun's face.
"They have found us," said Nan Xun.
Jun Huang got to her feet and patted soil off her clothes. They put out the fire before leaving the cave. It didn't take long for them to find the shadow guards. The guards let out a sigh of relief when they saw the two of them.
One of the guards walked up to them. "Are you hurt, Your Highness?"
Nan Xun shook his head and surveyed the complicated terrain. They were in the middle of nowhere. The end of the path was beyond their view.
Jun Huang felt her heart sink. She had thought it wouldn't take long for them to find Mister Ji Bo. She didn't expect to get stuck without a clear direction. However, she was never one to back down when faced with difficulties. Quite the contrary, she always tackled challenges she encountered head on.
She narrowed her bright eyes and tightened her hands into fists. "We should try to find our way out. Staying here isn't going to help."
Nan Xun agreed. They packed up what they needed and started exploring the woods. They took every turn they encountered and traveled through every path they found. As time passed, their expression darkened more and more.
For days they roamed around the woods like headless flies. The long walk had almost exhausted all of Jun Huang's stamina. Even the trained shadow guards were panting. Nan Xun was worried that Jun Huang might collapse.
Every time he suggested that they take a short rest, however, Jun Huang would frown. She considered resting to be a waste of time. This time, looking at how sorry a figure the shadow guards now cut, she swallowed down her argument and sat down under a tree.
Over the past few days, the poison in her body had been acting up, as if trying to demand her attention. She felt dizzy as soon as she sat down. She took a deep breath with her eyes closed, bracing for the pain.
A hissing black snake slithered towards her under the cover of fallen leaves. Jun Huang's body naturally emitted a unique fragrance. That was why she often wore sachet to cover the smell. The sachet had been rendered useless by the rain. Her fragrance attracted vermins like fire attracted moths. The snake sneaked up on her and bit down on her ankle.
Jun Huang cried out in pain, drawing everyone's attention. Nan Xun narrowed his eyes at the snake and drew his sword to cut it in half. The snake was flung backward. The two halves of its body were still wriggling even after its death.
Jun Huang felt light-headed. She could barely keep herself upright. Nan Xun suppressed the urge to chop the snake into paste and hurried to Jun Huang's side. He steadied her with a hand on her shoulder, while his other hand lifted up her robe. Her sock had been dyed red by her blood. He felt panic seizing his heart.
He rolled down her sock. The wound on her ankle was an ugly mess. Some of the guards couldn't help but gasp.
Jun Huang tried her best to stay focus. Before she could open her eyes, a rush of pain shot from her ankle. She snapped her eyes open and saw Nan Xun sucking on the wound, preventing the venom from spreading. He did so like it was the most natural thing to do in the world.
The shadow guards were as stunned as Jun Huang. They had never seen their general act this way. It was clear from his expression that he was concerned, but they didn't expect him to willingly cast his pride aside.
They soon recovered and went off to retrieve water and start a fire. They acted in an orderly fashion like soldiers in an army would.
Nan Xun had bent down to put his lips on the wound on Jun Huang's pale ankle. In her pain, Jun Huang did not even think about pulling away. She looked at Nan Xun with round eyes, a wave of feelings rippling through her heart. She had always felt something for Nan Xun, but she was good at compartmentalized her feelings. She would not allow herself to lose control. How could she let herself fall in love when her sole focus was on getting revenge?
But again and again, Nan Xun had put her safety above his own. A few days ago he had jumped off after her without hesitation. And now this. She couldn't stop her heart from racing.
Everything could be faked, but this feeling? It could only be real.
It was as if a thunderbolt had struck her in the heart. She broke into goosebumps at her realization.
Nan Xun, on the other hand, was blushing hard because of the intimacy.
He had lived his whole life on battlefields. He rarely came in contact with any women. Things changed after he met Jun Huang earlier this year.
Jun Huang usually dressed in men's clothes, though. Sometimes she could be even more masculine than many men. Her every move showed a strong and resilient character.
Being this close to Jun Huang with everyone watching, Nan Xun couldn't stop his blood from rushing to his face. He didn't dare to look Jun Huang in the eyes.
He spat out a mouthful of tainted blood. It was a shocking sight. The incident had made everyone more vigilant.
Jun Huang had known that she might encounter snakes or other vermins before she came to Mount Wuming. To be on the safe side, she had prepared some medicine that could cleanse poison, which was exactly what she needed now.
Once her head was clear enough, she asked for her rucksack. She took out a silver needle and inserted it into her wound. The skin turned from a bluish grey to red, but the red was not the red of blood. It was more vibrant and harsh.
Nan Xun frowned worriedly. "What does this mean?"
Jun Huang jabbed her ankle a dozen times before dropping the silver needle on the ground. A puff of green smoke went up and in a blink of an eye, the needle disappeared, corroded by the venom.
Nan Xun and the guards looked at Jun Huang with wide eyes, worried that something might happen to her as well.
Jun Huang took a deep breath. Seeing the pale faces surrounding her, she put on a smile and said gently, "I'm fine."
As if she had used up all her strengths to utter those few words, she fell forward and almost hit the ground. Fortunately Nan Xun had been keeping an eye on her. He caught her just in time.