Chapter 153: Urgency
How did those Eastern Wu men avoid Qi Chen's detection?
Jun Huang twisted and turned on the ground, unable to fall asleep. In the end she gave up on sleeping. She sat up and looked at the sky with unfocused eyes. Her head was filled with unanswered questions.
She was surrounded by soldiers, who fell asleep as soon as they lay down. Their snores were as loud as thunder strikes. Jun Huang was more awake than ever. With a sigh, she got to her feet and decided to go for a walk.
She had tried her best to make as little sound as possible, but Nan Xun still heard her. He opened his eyes and watched Jun Huang go. He assumed that Jun Huang had things to take care of, so he didn't follow her.
After a while, though, Jun Huang still hadn't returned. A trace of worry snuck into his heart. He got up to find Jun Huang and ran into her not far from the camp.
"Is something wrong?" Jun Huang asked.
Nan Xun smiled awkwardly and changed the subject. He didn't say that he was worried. As they made their way back, Nan Xun looked at Jun Huang's tired face and felt his heart ache. "Are you unable to fall asleep because the others are too loud?"
Jun Huang shook her head. "That's not it. I was simply having troubles sleeping. After going on a walk, I'm feeling drowsy. Let's return. I'm sure I'll fall asleep in no time."
She picked up her pace. Nan Xun didn't argue.
It turned out that Jun Huang had underestimated the soldiers' snores. She was always a light sleeper. With the thunderous noise assaulting her senses, she couldn't fall asleep. She didn't want Nan Xun to worry about her, however, so she forced herself to shut her eyes and got some rest.
Jun Huang had gotten very little sleep when the day broke. Nan Xun didn't want to disturb her. He had noticed Jun Huang's situation last night. He ordered the others to leave her alone and put off their departure.
The soldiers didn't think too much of it. Nan Xun's second in command, on the other hand, wondered if this was a good thing. He had run into Nan Xun and Jun Huang "doing it." He couldn't stop himself from dwelling on their relationship when Nan Xun had been treating Jun Huang with such care.
He was but an official, though, and he owed a debt to Nan Xun. He wasn't going to say anything to Nan Xun, and could only sighed to himself in private.
It wasn't that he thought Feng Baiyu wasn't good enough. Quite the contrary, Feng Baiyu was too good a man; that was why Nan Xun fell for him. Sometimes, he hoped that Feng Baiyu had been a woman. If so, he wouldn't have a word of complain. In fact, he would be offering his blessings to the two of them.
When Jun Huang woke up, the sun was at the top of the sky. Nan Xun had set up a simple roof over her head to provide some shade.
Jun Huang blinked blearily. The position of the sun told her that it was noon already. She felt bad for causing the delay, but Nan Xun didn't seem to care.
Nan Xun had noticed Jun Huang's loss of weight. Her face had lost its usual color. She looked unhealthy. It worried Nan Xun.
He rode to Jun Huang side. With a frown, he said, "If you can't keep going, I'll have someone prepare a coach. You don't have to push yourself."
Jun Huang glanced at him and shook her head. "You have asked the soldiers to march slower. That I can tell. I'll be able to keep on. If I get on a coach, there's no telling when we will reach Yunzhou. Don't forget that you have your order. You aren't here to go on a field trip. Neither am I. You know better than others that I'll like to reach Yun Town as soon as I can."
Nan Xun fell silent. His eyes were fixed on Jun Huang. He was worried that something would happen to her.
Nan Xun's second in command stepped in. He could see Jun Huang wasting away as well, and he had to do something. It might be that Jun Huang was born with an endearing quality. Or perhaps it was because he had seen how much Nan Xun cared about Jun Huang – He knew that Nan Xun would be unhappy if Jun Huang was unwell.
"There's a little town ahead of us, general. We can go get some supply." The officer couldn't say openly that this was for Jun Huang. He therefore spoke in a roundabout way.
Nan Xun glanced at the officer, his eyes lighting up. He nodded. His mood had taken an upturn.
The officer saw the change in Nan Xun's expression. His heart felt lighter as well.
They soon reached the town. Nan Xun ordered the others to get the supply.
They were here to suppress a riot. It wasn't that big a deal. Therefore, Nan Xun hadn't brought a lot of people with him. Nonetheless, he didn't want to scare the local residents. Nan Xun picked a few men to get what they needed before following Jun Huang in.
Jun Huang knew that Nan Xun had only made this stop because of her. She felt a little guilty, but Nan Xun didn't give her time to dwell on it. He took her to the biggest relay station in the town and booked two rooms.
Nan Xun didn't need one for himself, but he worried that Jun Huang would turn his offer down if he didn't stay in this relay station as well. That was why he booked an extra room.
Jun Huang was tired. After days of staying in the elements and being troubled by the lack of information from Qi Chen, she had not been getting much sleep. She fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.
While she was asleep, Nan Xun asked a clerk to make him a bowl of congee. He watched the clerk was cook. When it was done, Nan Xun took out a ceramic bottle from his robe.
Nan Xun had asked a doctor to seek out this medicine for him. He would give it to Jun Huang directly, but he was worried that Jun Huang might be unwilling to take the medicine.
The poison in her body was still slowly spreading through her system. He had to try his best to slow it down until he found a way to cleanse the poison.
Nan Xun sighed. He ground the medicine into powder and put it in the congee. He then mixed it with a spoon before trying some. He relaxed when he was sure he couldn't taste the medicine. He brought the bowl of congee back to the room upstairs. Jun Huang happened to wake up.
"Thought you were still asleep," Nan Xun said as he put the bowl on the table. "Since you're awake, you should get something in your stomach."
Jun Huang looked out at the darkening sky and nodded. She took a spoonful of the congee. Nan Xun had not added a lot of the medicine. He didn't want Jun Huang to notice and feel like she owed him. He didn't realize that Jun Huang had taken all kinds of medicine when she was under Ole Cragfiend's care. She noticed the hint of bitterness right away.
Jun Huang kept it to herself. She knew that Nan Xun had gone through the troubles for her. She let herself be moved for a brief moment before hardening her heart. She could never get together with Nan Xun. She must not give Nan Xun any false hope.
Jun Huang ignore the trace of pain inside her heart and turned a blind eye to Nan Xun's kindness. She focused on eating the bowl of congee.
That night, Jun Huang was finally able to have a good night sleep. She had not slept on a bed since they set out on this journey. The short rest she had had before dinner was far from enough. As time went by, she became more and more tired. She closed her eyes and fell into a deep slumber.
They were outside their territory, and Nan Xun had not brought any guards with him. He and Jun Huang were on their own. Worried that dangers might strike, Nan Xun didn't dare to sleep. He asked a clerk for a chair and kept watch at Jun Huang's door.
When Jun Huang woke up the next day, she opened the door and saw Nan Xun dozing off outside her door. Nan Xun was a tall man. He looked a little ridiculous on that little stool with his body bent, but Jun Huang didn't feel like laughing at all. She felt a pang in her heart where it was most tender. For a moment she could only stare at Nan Xun like a woman possessed.
As a trained fighter, Nan Xun was vigilant even in his sleep. He could feel someone's gaze on him without opening his eyes, and he knew it must be Jun Huang.
For reason he wasn't exactly clear about, he suddenly didn't want to move. He wanted time to stay frozen at this moment: Jun Huang was watching him from the side thinking that he was asleep. She didn't want to disturb him, but she wasn't willing to leave him, either.
Of course, his hope could never come true. Not long after, his second in command came to find them. The officer felt a little awkward seeing them like this. It was different from what he expected, but it was still difficult to wrap his head around the air of intimacy between Jun Huang and Nan Xun.
"It's time to go, general," said the officer. His eyes darted between Nan Xun and Jun Huang. He wondered if the two of them had stayed in the same room, and if Nan Xun had been kicked out because he was trying to do something in bed. He was but an officer, however, and there were lines he shouldn't cross. He shut his mouth and accompany the two of them to have breakfast before making their way to outside the town.
On their way out, Nan Xun asked Jun Huang again. "Are you sure you don't need a coach? Are you sure you can ride a horse?"
Jun Huang turned to Nan Xun, then to the officer. She sighed. "Yes, I'm sure. Everyone else is riding a horse, aren't they? There's no reason that I can't manage." Jun Huang knew her insistence would make Nan Xun feel bad. She added, "Don't worry. I'll let you know if I can't keep up."
Nan Xun let out a long breath. "As you wish."
They left the town and rejoined the troop. They resumed their journey to Yunzhou.
The heaven did not smile upon them, however. It suddenly started pouring. In summer, rain came without warning, and it lingered. The rain didn't seem like it would break any time soon.
Nan Xun quickly handed the straw rain cape a soldier gave him to Jun Huang and told her to put it on, or she would catch a cold. He didn't seem to care that his clothes were already drenched.