Chapter 131: Blood Loss
Nan Xun pointed his sword at the leader of the attackers. The silver light reflected from his blade added a harsh edge to his stoic face. He looked like a messenger from hell. Alerted, the men in black cautiously circled Nan Xun.
The leader made a gesture. His men charged at Jun Huang and Nan Xun again. This time, they were able to catch Jun Huang off guard. With her fan she could deal with a couple enemies. Surrounded by five to six men, however, she was forced to back away further, out of the circle of Nan Xun's protection.
The men's eyes shone with the intent to kill. Jun Huang tried her best to fight back with her fan, but her hand had gone numb from the impact and her movement slowed down. One of the men widened his eyes when he noticed her fatigue and stabbed at her fan with his sword. Without a way out, Jun Huang moved with the strike and turned aside. The blade missed her by a hair, but her fan was knocked out of her hand.
Tension built up in her body. She focused intently on her foes. She wasn't going to give up simply because she had lost her weapon.
A man came at her with a sword. Jun Huang leaped into the air and kicked at the man's head with all her force. Blood geysered out from the man's nose as he fell. He took his last breath on the ground.
The remaining men surrounding Jun Huang shared a wary look. They didn't expect Jun Huang to be able to strike back as hard as she had done without a weapon. They recognized her as a formidable foe and charged at her in unison.
Jun Huang backed away towards Nan Xun. Noticing her situation, Nan Xun kicked up a sword and threw it towards Jun Huang's attackers. Harsh wind flew past her ear. The spinning sword managed to take out a few of the men. Jun Huang widened her eyes, her heart beating fast.
The sword had missed her by only a few inches. If she had moved, or if Nan Xun's aim had been even a little off, she would have been the one killed.
With a frown, Nan Xun made a play at attacking the leader and seized the opportunity to move towards Jun Huang. He pulled Jun Huang closer to him and kept the men away from them with a swept of his sword.
Jun Huang took a deep breath to focus her mind. Nan Xun worriedly asked, "Are you hurt?"
Jun Huang shook her head.
The men closed in on them again. Jun Huang swapped position with Nan Xun. With a decisive slash, Nan Xun decapitated the man who was charging at them. It was too bloody a scene for most people to witness. Nan Xun reflexively turned Jun Huang's face towards him to stop her from looking. He didn't want her to see such cruelty again.
Nan Xun fought hard to protect her. He wasn't willing to let her get even a scratch.
The men realized that Jun Huang was Nan Xun's weakness. All their subsequent attacks were aimed at Jun Huang. Nan Xun pulled Jun Huang out of harm's way again and again. Soon, they were backed into a dead end. Jun Huang took out her silver needles and prepared to strike. Someone observant would have noticed the reflection, but these men were too careless to notice such details.
Jun Huang held onto the needles. She had left her house in a rush today, so she only brought three needles with her. She must make sure that the needles landed on her targets, and she must use them at the right moment.
Nan Xun was good enough a fighter to keep his foes wary. They stayed out of his attack range.
Both sides were trying to feel the other out. Neither was reckless enough to make the first move.
Had the tide been turned? As soon as Jun Huang relaxed her guard even by a little, the leader of the men struck at Jun Huang with an open palm. She wasn't fast enough to dodge it.
A glint flashed through Nan Xun's eyes. He stabbed at the leader, who pulled back his hand quickly and twirled against Nan Xun's blade. He stopped behind Nan Xun and, before Nan Xun could react, slashed at Nan Xun with his sword.
His movement was quick and precise, giving Nan Xun no time to defend himself. He took the hit right in his back.
The sound of swishing air torn clothes were almost offensive in the quiet. Jun Huang could hear the cold metal slicing into human flesh. A phantom pain shot down her spine. Without thinking, she threw a silver needle at the leader, who noticed the reflection dodged her attack with a simple tilt of his head. He charged at Jun Huang.
Nan Xun ground his teeth together to brace for the pain and picked up his sword to parry the leader's attack. He almost drop his weapon when the two blades collided. The deep, long gash on his back split open. He ignored the cold sweat mixing with blood streaming down his aching body.
Jun Huang knew they had to retreat. She took out a marble and threw it hard at the ground. The marble exploded into colorful sparks before thick smoke rose up, filling the air with a pungent smell and obscuring everyone's view.
Jun Huang forced herself to stay calm. With the smoke as her cover, she threw another silver needle at the leader and hit the man in the stomach. No matter how observant the leader was, he couldn't dodge an attack he couldn't see. The pain in his stomach told him that he had lost his chance. He could only watch Jun Huang and Nan Xun escape.
Jun Huang helped Nan Xun flee to another street and they blended into the crowd. In the evening, the imperial city was filled with people. Many of them were attracted by the food stands lining the street. Jun Huang let tension drain from her muscles. Sweat started to break from her forehead, a belated reaction to the danger they had faced.
Nan Xun put a hand over the wound on his shoulder blade. His face was as pale as sheet. Every step he took pulled at his wound and sent white hot pain down his body. He had fought in numerous battles. This was far from the most serious injury he had suffered. With Jun Huang at his side, however, it was as if his sense of pain had woken up from its dormant state and he felt everything more keenly.
"Are you alright?" Jun Huang asked.
Nan Xun tilted his face toward her. A hint of smile appeared on his pale face. He shook his head, his breathing slow and heavy. He staggered a little as he walked.
Jun Huang frowned. She knew how much Nan Xun hated showing his weakness. She took Nan Xun back to his manor as quickly as possible. Before she said anything, Nan Xun ordered his servants to keep quiet and forbade them from sending for a doctor. Everyone was concerned about him.
"I have learned some basic medical skills from my mentor," Jun Huang said to Nan Xun. "Your wounds need to be treated now. We don't want an infection."
Nan Xun took a deep breath and nodded. "I will be in your care."
Jun Huang told a servant to help Nan Xun into his room and prepare some clean bandages. She then asked for a lamp, a dagger, a bowl of hot water, and some ointment.
Nan Xun's wound was on his left shoulder. When she entered the room, Nan Xun's clothes had been stripped down by the servant. Jun Huang widened her eyes at his sculpted torso before quickly looking away. She prepared herself mentally and shifted her attention back to Nan Xun. Color had drained out of his skin due to the blood loss.
Jun Huang swallowed down the lump in her throat. It was imperative that she stopped the bleeding at once. She asked the servant to leave before coming to Nan Xun's side. Nan Xun sat on the bed cross-legged with his eyes closed.
"It will hurt. If it's too much to bear, you can bite into this." Jun Huang handed him a folded handkerchief.
Nan Xun tightened his jaw and shook his head. Jun Huang didn't have time to waste on trying to change his mind. She took a deep breath and cleaned out the blood around the open wound. She then heated up the dagger on top of a candle.
When the blade started to glow in red, Jun Huang moved it away from the fire. With a trembling hand, she held onto Nan Xun's shoulder. "I'm going to start."
Nan Xun was prepared. Jun Huang clenched her jaw and pressed the dagger against the gash on his shoulder. His flesh sizzled as the heat closed up his wound. Nan Xun couldn't help his pained gasp. He ground his teeth together to stop himself from embarrassing himself. Sweat streamed down his forehead and landed on the bed.
Jun Huang moved the dagger away from Nan Xun's shoulder. His wound had finally stopped bleeding, but the skin had turned an angry red from her treatment. Jun Huang's hand trembled and the dagger fell to the floor.
Nan Xun forced himself to breathe properly. His eyes fluttered open and he caught Jun Huang's cold fingers, fighting against gravity with what little strength he had left. He said comfortingly, "I'm fine. I can take the pain. When I fought in wars, I did this to myself to stop the blood loss and prevent infection all the time. I'm alright…" His voice became quieter and quieter until he fell silent.
Jun Huang couldn't stop herself from tearing up. Don't cry, she told herself. You can't afford to show such weakness. It took a moment for her to blink back the sting under her eyelids. She picked up the ointment and applied it to Nan Xun's shoulder carefully before wrapping his shoulder in bandages.
She let out a long and shuddering breath. Sweat dropped from her chin to Nan Xun's body.