Chapter 40: Help Me get Revenge
Jun Huang looked up at the maid. "Where is Nan Xun?"
"The prince is at the pavilion – "
Jun Huang left before the maid could finish. She felt weak and her steps wobbled a little as she walked, which was only natural; she did just wake up from a poison-induced coma. She had to pull herself up against the wall and struggled her way out. Her path happened to cross Nan Xun's.
Nan Xun spotted her from a distance. Under the dim light, he could see Jun Huang with her hair down, her face delicate and fine. The clothes suited her well. She looked at him with a hand on the red pillar and curved her lips.
Nan Xun took quick strides to her and supported her slight frame with an arm, scowling. "Why are you not resting in the room? What are you doing outside?"
"Looking for you," Jun Huang said quietly, her voice as light as a falling feather. Nan Xun was distracted by that for a moment, but he quickly recovered.
"You don't need to come find me. Just tell a servant to do it. You just woke up and shouldn't tire yourself." He helped Jun Huang back to the room.
They didn't speak on their way back. Jun Huang kept her eyes down, her thoughts indiscernible. Nan Xun, on the other hand, couldn't stop staring at Jun Huang – this was the first time he'd ever seen her dressed in women's clothes.
Once back to the bedroom, Jun Huang took a seat on the bed, her face still a little pale. She looked up at Nan Xun. "I never asked you when you discovered my true identity."
Nan Xun never intended to keep this from her. "The first time we met, you called me by my name. Then you got hurt because of me. I knew it then."
Jun Huang nodded. She was too careless. And to think she had pretended to be a man before Nan Xun for so long – it was such an embarrassment.
A maid carried a bowl of medicine in. Nan Xun took it and told the maid to leave. He was about to feed it to Jun Huang, but she turned him down with a flushed face. She took the bowl and started drinking, her expression as calm as ever.
She had been the test subject of her master. Those medicines were truly so bitter you could feel it deep in your bones. This? This was child play compared to what she had had.
Seeing Jun Huang swallowing down the dark and thick medicine without so much of a frown, Nan Xun felt his chest tightened. He could tell how bitter it was just by the smell. What had Jun Huang been through since her country was lost, and before she came to Northern Qi? What could have turned a beloved princess into a woman like her?
Jun Huang put down the bowl, noticing that Nan Xun had not taken his eyes away from her. She took a deep breath. "Why didn't you tell me immediately after knowing my identity? Did you enjoy seeing me making a fool of myself?"
"You must have a reason for keeping your identity a secret. How could I intervene? I didn't expect you to be so foolish in seeking revenge, however. It still doesn't make sense to me." Nan Xun couldn't stop himself from telling her his true feelings. He scowled so hard it was like she had personally offended him with her recklessness.
Jun Huang opened her mouth, but didn't know how to defend herself. She could only stare at the floor and chuckle. "You're not a fish. What do you know about the joy of fish?1 What do you know about the sorrow of fish? Your Highness is not me. What do you know about my pain?" She looked up at him with red eyes. Her voice was hoarse as she spoke. "Does Your Highness think that I myself wanted to do what I did? Of course I will like to lead a life of peace, but how can I just forget about the destruction of my family and country? Your Highness has not lived through my pain. You have killed people, yes. But you are a respected war god. How could you possibly understand my fear the day I lost my everything?"
Every one of her questions hit him hard. Nan Xun didn't know what to say in order to cover up his moment of weakness. He stopped trying and just let her see what he was feeling.
"If I have a choice, why would I be doing this?" Jun Huang's voice was calm, almost free of emotions, but every word cut through his defense and shook him to the very core.
"There are things we must not dwell on." That was the only thing Nan Xun could say. Such empty words. Jun Huang laughed quietly.
The poison in her body was spreading. She could almost feel her blood slowly circulating within her. She closed her eyes. "Do you know what I have been through, Nan Xun?"
Nan Xun would very much like to know, so he didn't try to deflect. Instead, he asked, "Tell me, Jun Huang, why were you poisoned? And before you came to Northern Qi, what happened to you?"
Jun Huang smiled bitterly. His questions roused the pain from her past and it swallowed her up like a wave. She held her breath.
"That day, my family was broken. I was chased down a cliff, hit by a poisoned arrow. I thought it would be my end, but below the cliff was a behemoth tree, which broke my fall. There was an old man living not far from it. He was a master of poison, and he knew how to cleanse poison, too. He realized that my body functioned differently than that of a normal person, so he made me his test subject. He cleansed my poison, and at the same time test poisons on me."
"I made a deal with him – He'd set me free and teach me medicine. The poison in my body, however, was too potent. It couldn't be completely cleansed even after months of efforts. This time, with the two kinds of poison acting up together? I know I'll never fully recover."
Jun Huang slowly opened her eyes and met Nan Xun's gaze. There was no trace of emotions on her face. It was as if she was telling somebody else's story.
Nan Xun felt a lump in his throat. Jun Huang made it out to be some simple matter with the way she talked, but he couldn't stop his heart from aching. He had never met a test subject himself, but he had heard about how painful it was – the pain would be so bad one could feel it in their bones.
He reached out to stroke Jun Huang's long hair, his eyes filled with sympathy. He sighed. "The doctor was here. He said that you didn't have a lot of time left… Why don't you give up on revenge, and just live a good life in this short period of time?"
Jun Huang clenched her teeth, her eyes fierce. "I have been through so much, and now you want me to give up? Really? To this day, I still want to bleed those murdering bastards and cut out their tendons."
Nan Xun knew he couldn't convince her. "Then what do you want to do?"
Jun Huang struggled to sit up, her eyes determined. "I'd like you to help me, Nan Xun. Are you willing to?"
That didn't surprise him; he had expected Jun Huang to ask for his help. He put an arm around her in support. "How do you want me to help? Do you have a plan?"
"I want to find my brother soon and kill Jun Yu for betraying my country. I am, however, but one person. Originally I wanted to ask Qi Yun for help, but the imperial court of Northern Qi is not as stable as it seems to be. He can barely keep his head over the water. Now, I can only turn to you for help."
Nan Xun frowned. "What will you have me do?"
"Eastern Wu has set eyes on their neighboring countries. Soon, they will invade Northern Qi. It will be a good opportunity to kill Jun Yu. Now, however, I'm not sure exactly where he is. Qi Yun has been helping me track him down, but so far, he's found nothing."
Nan Xun thought for a moment. Jun Huang was right. After invading Western Que, Eastern Wu had not participated in any of the ceremonies held by the three countries. It was clear that Eastern Wu was trying to conserve their strength for something big.
He didn't expect a woman like Jun Huang to be this knowledgeable and brave. She was stronger than even a majority of men. He found himself more and more drawn to her. There was a resilient soul inside her body.
Jun Huang coughed. It was getting a little cold. Nan Xun grabbed the robe laid on the bed and put it around her shoulders. "Don't worry. I'll have people track your brother down." He clapped her on the back to help her breathe. "Your priority now is to rest and let your body recover. Otherwise you won't be able to avenge the lost souls of Western Que."
"I promise I will do all I can to help you get revenge. You must promise me, however, to never be hasty. If there's any problem, tell me. Don't shoulder everything on your own. I'm always here for you."
He was so gentle Jun Huang felt like she was drowning in his eyes. Somewhere deep inside her heart, a chord was struck. She had been shouldering everything on her own up until this day; she would be lying if she said she wasn't tired. Now, here was a man who told her that she wasn't alone. She couldn't help but be moved.
Nan Xun didn't know what had gotten into him that made him say something so sentimental. His life had always been routine and rigid. He thought women were difficult to deal with. Never had he imagined that there would be a woman who allowed him to relax his guard.
Jun Huang's determination impressed and fascinated him. And it made him fond of her that she cared so deeply about the people and had a strong moral compass. In this vast land of Northern Qi, no one other than Jun Huang could attract his attention and make him feel so protective.
"You care. The gods will not wrong you. One day, you'll be able to avenge your loved ones."
Jun Huang chuckled, her eyes soft. "Didn't take Your Highness as someone who believed in gods."
Nan Xun couldn't help the blood rushing into his face. He cleared his throat and turned away from Jun Huang's knowing smile.
Before they realized, the night had fallen. Jun Huang sat up in a rush, knocking into Nan Xun's shoulder, which made him wince. Jun Huang also got dizzy from the sudden movement. She held onto the headboard for support.
"Are you alright?" Nan Xun asked worriedly, putting an arm around her.
After regaining her composure, Jun Huang took a deep breath and shook her head. "I'm fine. But it's late. I need to go back to Prince Chen Manor at once. This is a critical juncture. Qi Chen must not suspect me."
Nan Xun nodded and helped her up. "Do you need me to escort you back?"
"There's no need." Jun Huang's face became tinted with red. "Would Your Highness please leave for a moment? I need to change."
From Zhuangzi. This was what another philosopher Hui Shi said to him. Zhuangzi basically responded by saying, I have eyes. I can see it's happy. ↩