Chapter 6: Pursuit
“Nan Xun, Northern Qi’s very own war god. It’s said that you’ve never been defeated, so what dire straits befell you here?” Jun Huang didn’t respond, but mocked him instead. She’d put on male clothing to make her travels more convenient after leaving the mountain, so it was no wonder that Nan Xun hadn’t recognized her.
“What is your goal?” Nan Xun’s face suddenly darkened as killing intent flashed through his eyes. Since this man seemed to know him, it was imperative that he find out this man’s motives.
“I would’ve killed you a long time ago if I wanted to, alright?” Jun Huang rolled her eyes at the murderous intent in Nan Xun’s eyes. “Let’s chat about what happened here. You’ve already entered Northern Qi territory, so why were your losses so severe?”
Nan Xun took a deep look at Jun Huang, not a flicker of expression crossing his face as he seemed to weigh the veracity of Jun Huang’s words. “There was a traitor in the army. We were ambushed.” He glossed over the specifics, not mentioning who the traitor was or why they’d been ambushed. However, Jun Huang could confirm her own suspicions through his words and sighed inwardly, looking at Nan Xun with a gaze of unspeakable complexity.
“What?” Nan Xun frowned, feeling quite uncomfortable from Jun Huang’s gaze.
“Have you ever considered…” Jun Huang broached the subject delicately, “Why you weren’t ambushed in Western Que, but attacked within Northern Qi borders instead?” Regardless of the reason, Nan Xun had held a funeral for her royal father and mother. She owed him a debt of gratitude, and thus couldn’t just ignore his precarious situation.
“Oh? Why’s that?” Nan Xun’s expression remained unchanged, but his heart sank. Someone who would pose this kind of question would certainly have a certain answer in mind. The only issue that remained was the goal of this slender and beautiful man?
“The Nan troops have battled for many years without suffering a single defeat. All who hear of your name tremble in fear. Your reputation in Northern Qi is even a bit higher than the imperial family’s” Jun Huang ground out through gritted teeth. “The Nan troops blaze so gloriously, but is the general aware that an emperor would never allow one of his subjects to shine more brightly than him?”
“And what of that!?” Nan Xun glared coldly at Jun Huang. “I am a citizen of Northern Qi and naturally should ensure peace for my country.”
“You!” Jun Huang was incensed to the point of speechlessness. She hadn’t thought that Nan Xun would remain such an unmoving block of wood even when she’d spoken so plainly. Western Que was no more, Eastern Wu was on the run, and Southern Mu had never cared enough to become involved in anything. The only one who would ambush the Nan troops in Northern Qi territory was Northern Qi itself!
Nan Xun was a general of Northern Qi, but his reputation had long since eclipsed that of the royal family’s. How could the emperor bear this thorn in his side? It went without saying that the mastermind behind this ambush was most likely the Northern Qi royal family!
Jun Huang had wanted to offer a reminder to Nan Xun to be wary of the Northern Qi emperor, but his response was wholly diffident, whether on purpose or of true naivety. A thick silence descended on the cave as neither of the two spoke.
In the end, Jun Huang was the one who broke the heavy atmosphere. She walked over to Nan Xun, medicine in hand, and looked down at him from her lofty position, speaking awkwardly, “Your wound needs to be dressed again. Lie down, I’ll do it for you.”
Nan Xun was disbelieving, but he still lay down docilely. No matter what this man’s goal was, Nan Xun couldn’t do anything with his heavy injuries. I might as well go along with the flow.
The general had been unconscious when Jun Huang had treated him earlier, so although she’d felt awkward, she’d only blushed slightly. However, she could feel Nan Xun’s gaze trained on her body this time. Jun Huang couldn’t help but stiffen all over, as even her fingers began uncontrollably trembling.
“Why are you trembling?” A breath of suspicion graced Nan Xun’s brows when he saw Jun Huang’s shaking hand.
“Who’s, who’s trembling?!” Jun Huang glared ferociously at Nan Xun to cover up her emotions, but her face still blazed hotly. She admonished herself to focus and repeated Buddha’s names over and over again in her heart, finally managing to calm down.
Nan Xun stared at Jun Huang’s movements with a furrowed brow, feeling something off about them. His eyes happened to flit past to her earlobes, where they widened with sudden shock. “You’re a woman?” He scrambled a half step back and looked at Jun Huang’s obviously pierced ear lobes with stunned surprise.
Jun Huang was also startled by his sudden action and spilled the medicines all over the floor. “I-I’m not—ah!!” She waved her hands frantically, but hadn’t anticipated on Nan Xun suddenly dodging away. His leg caught hers, knocking her off balance. With a startled exclamation, she fell forward, landing straight into Nan Xun’s embrace.
The strong scent of a male assaulted her senses. Jun Huang could feel Nan Xun’s broad chest, and her ears were filled with the strong thud of his heartbeat. She could feel a fire erupt from the backs of her ears and travel swiftly throughout her body, tinging her entire face a rosy red.
Pin drop silence reigned in the cave. Jun Huang was the first to recover her senses as she sprang out of Nan Xun’s embrace. Her eyes darted to and fro as she stammered out an explanation, “I… I didn’t mean to do that. I was j-just…”
Nan Xun actually felt a sudden sense of loss when the warmth in his arms slipped away, but his expression abruptly froze in the next second as he thought of something. “Who are you, and what is your goal?” He suddenly wrapped his hand around Jun Huang’s neck, glaring viciously at her.
Jun Huang had relaxed her guard for a second and had actually ended up being captured again. She glared straight back, squeezing her words out with effort, “Let go, I’m… not… an enemy…”
“Not an enemy? Then why did you disguise yourself as a man to get close to me?” Nan Xun laughed coldly and increased the strength in his hand. “Speak, or die!”
“I… I…” Jun Huang was more mad at herself than anything else. She knew from the beginning that although Nan Xun was injured, he was no ordinary character. How had she let her guard down again?
“Where d’ya think that Nan’s hiding? We searched that entire battlefield but found no trace o’ him.” Sounds of other voices swept in at that moment. The two within the cave froze, and Nan Xun relaxed his grip slightly. Jun Huang took advantage of his momentary lapse to slip out of his grasp and suck in large mouthfuls of sweet air off to the side. Nan Xun’s expression changed, and just as he was about to leap into action, she waved her hand to tell him to hide quietly.
The two hid in the cave, soundlessly listening to the conversation outside.
“Who knows? Master said he wants to see the man if alive, the body if dead. We best hop to it!” The other fellow blustered back. The duo were drawing closer, and it seemed that they would soon find the cave.
“They’re looking for me, you go.” Nan Xun had chosen a stick for his weapon, since there were nothing else suitable nearby. It moved easily in his hand as he stared at the cave entrance, his entire posture on high alert.
“Your injuries are severe, so you’re more than likely doomed if they find you.” Jun Huang took a look at Nan Xun and seemed to make a decision. “I’ll go draw them away, you stay here.”
A thread of incredulity flashed through Nan Xun’s eyes as he looked into Jun Huang’s resolute ones. “There’s many of them outside.”
There’s many of them outside, so you may very well die if you go out.