Chapter 161: Martial Arts Tournament
Nan Xun wade through the crowd. Jun Huang was sitting on the ground with a proper smile on her face, but Nan Xun had known Jun Huang long enough to read some of her tells. His eyes fell on her tightened hand. She must have hurt her palm.
Jun Huang kept trying to explain to the woman that this was all a misunderstanding, but the woman was unwilling to listen. She was mad for reasons she couldn’t put into words. She just wanted to vent her anger.
Nan Xun wasn’t going to let the woman continue bullying Jun Huang. Ignoring the odd looks from the onlookers, he approached Jun Huang and gently helped her up. An undefinable emotion flashed through Jun Huang’s eyes when she saw him.
Their foreheads were almost touching as Nan Xun bent down to support her. With his help, Jun Huang got to her feet. Her knees were hurting a little, but the pain was manageable. Her joints just needed some time to get used to her weight.
Nan Xun noticed her frown. A pang of hurt hit him where he was most tender.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Are you hurt?”
Jun Huang took a deep breath and shook her head. “It’s nothing. I’ve just been sitting on the ground for too long. I’ll be fine after stretching my legs.”
Nan Xun looked deeply into her eyes, worried that she might be humoring him. Her gaze was steady, though. He relaxed and turned to the woman.
The woman dressed in pink could not stop staring at Nan Xun. She wanted him to shift his attention to her, even for a brief moment.
Her breath hitched when Nan Xun turned to her. She blinked, at a loss of what to say. It was all she could do to gape at him. Her palms were starting to sweat.
“Our apology,” said Nan Xun. “My friend has not meant to knock into you. I hope you won’t blame him. This gentleman apologizes to you on his behalf.” He made a gesture in greeting the way people in the martial arts world would. Warriors cared not about rules and proper etiquette.
Nan Xun turned back to Jun Huang and took her hand to check for wounds, sparing no glance for the woman. His eyebrows furrowed in sympathy. His lowered head kept the emotions in his eyes hidden.
Jun Huang awkwardly tried to pull her hand away, but Nan Xun tightened his grip and didn’t let her. She gave up and let Nan Xun hold onto her arm.
“I… It’s nothing,” said the woman. “I was in a bad mood and happened to knock into your friend. You don’t have to apologize. I should be the one apologizing. I shouldn’t have lashed out at your friend without a good reason.”
The woman blushed and looked up at Nan Xun shyly. Her heart was beating so fast it was as if it would escape her chest.
Nan Xun threw her a glance and humored her with a few polite words. The woman had only gotten a look at his profile, but it was enough to captivate her. She felt the urge to declare her affection to the world, but she was worried that Nan Xun wouldn’t like woman who was too outspoken. She tried her best to reign herself in.
“It takes an argument to get to know someone, doesn’t it? I hope the gentleman wouldn’t blame me. I’m not usually this unreasonable. Would the gentleman mind… for us to get to know each other?”
The woman’s cheeks were beet red. She looked at Nan Xun from the corner of her eyes.
Jun Huang’s eyebrows jumped up. She turned to look at Nan Xun from the woman’s blindspot.
Nan Xun had noticed Jun Huang’s gaze. The woman was still babbling. He awkwardly coughed to interrupt the woman’s prolonged introduction. After a pause, he said, “In the martial arts world we don’t dwell on such trivial matters. Everything’s good as long as you don’t feel offended by my friend.”
Nan Xun’s deep voice made the woman’s heart skip a beat, which he was oblivious to. He turned back to Jun Huang with a frown. She looked tired, and her palm needed taking care of. He bid the woman farewell and led Jun Huang back to the inn.
“Hey, you’re going to just leave?” The woman wasn’t going to let them go. She hadn’t even found out Nan Xun’s name!
Nan Xun threw her a glance before saying, “My friend’s hurt. I have to take care of his wound. I hope you can understand.”
Without another word, he took Jun Huang back to the inn. He ordered a clerk to bring him some medicine before returning to their room. He then went out to fetch some hot water.
Jun Huang considered the scrapes covering her palm and murmured to herself, “Weird. It didn’t hurt before, but now it felt like I’ve been burnt…”
Nan Xun chuckled at Jun Huang’s complaint when he walked in with a basin of hot water. Now this was a rare thing to walk in on. Most of the time Jun Huang kept up a aloof front and didn’t show anyone her emotions.
Jun Huang looked up when she felt his gaze. Their eyes met. She quickly looked away and coughed awkwardly.
Nan Xun put the basin on the table and retrieved a towel. After soaking it in hot water, he told Jun Huang to give him her hand. Jun Huang unclenched her fist to let Nan Xun clean her wounds.
Nan Xun was careful, but the bleeding had not stopped and the wounds hurt when they came in contact with the hot water. Jun Huang swallowed down her cry of pain, her face going pale.
Not long after, the clerk brought them the medicine. He couldn’t help sneaking glances at them as he was leaving the room.
Nan Xun was kneeling close to Jun Huang, carefully cleaning the cuts on her palm. Worried that Jun Huang might be in serious pain, he blew at her skin to comfort her. Jun Huang looked at him with her eyes lowered. There was no expression on her face, but under the warm glow of the setting sun, there was an air of intimacy around them.
The clerk fled, shaking his unreasonable thoughts from his head. He almost bumped into a woman in pink dress at the top of the stairs. The woman cursed and pushed past him.
The clerk was dumbfounded, but in his mind, the customers were always right. He rushed downstairs. It was close to dinner time. The hall was already bustling with people.
After using the towel as compress to warm Jun Huang’s palm up, Nan Xun applied medicine on her wounds. When he brought the basin out of the door to get rid of the water, he saw the woman in pink sneaking glances at the door. She turned away with a blush when she saw him. She opened her mouth to speak, but stopped herself before anything came out of her mouth.
Nan Xun handed the wooden basin to one of the guards before turning to the woman. She had come all the way to this inn, and it was about the time to get dinner. Since Jun Huang had knocked into her earlier, it was the proper thing to do to buy her a meal.
Nan Xun looked up at her and said, “My friend has put you in a difficult situation. If you don’t mind, this gentleman would like to treat you to dinner.”
The woman’s eyes lit up like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She took a deep breath and batted her eyes at him. “Is the gentleman serious?”
“Of course,” said Nan Xun, his lips curved into a charming smile. The woman’s heart did a flip and her cheeks went red.
She pursed her lips and threw a glance at Nan Xun. “I accept the offer.”
Nan Xun found it amusing that the volatile woman had quieted down suddenly, but he stopped himself from commenting on it. He turned to his guard. “Go downstairs with this lady and order something she likes. Gentleman Feng and I will join you shortly.”
The guard nodded and motioned at the woman to go ahead. The woman was going to say something, but Nan Xun had turned away already. He entered the room and knelt down before Jun Huang, asking her if she was still in pain. The tenderness he showed to Jun Huang made jealousy flood into the woman’s heart. She tightened her grip, oblivious to the way her nails buried into her flesh.
Jun Huang had heard their conversation. She was a little surprised. She didn’t think Nan Xun was someone who would invite other people to dinner.
Nan Xun smiled knowingly and said, “That girl seems to have been in Yun Town for a while. Perhaps she has seen your brother before. We might as well ask.”
Jun Huang hadn’t expected this to be Nan Xun’s reason. It moved her. She worried her lip between her teeth and nodded. “Thank you, Nan Xun.”
“Don’t thank me. It’s what I should do.” Nan Xun’s thought process was simple. He wanted to find Jun Hao and Yin Yun as soon as possible. Then perhaps Jun Huang would be happier. Recently, Jun Huang’s smile had become too rare a sight.
She had put in so much effort in helping Qi Yun gain the throne, and she had given herself the task of dealing with the corruption in Northern Qi. What others could only achieve in ten years, she had achieved in a few months. And yet, she was unhappy.
There was nothing he wanted more than for her to be happy.
Once the medicine on Jun Huang’s palm had dried, Nan Xun and Jun Huang went to the main hall together. The dishes had been brought to the table. Before Nan Xun showed up, the woman had not been paying attention. Her head snapped up when the guard called out for Nan Xun.
Jun Huang’s white robe was dirty, so she changed into a blue robe. She looked as graceful as she did before. Nan Xun had not had a change of clothes. The hard lines of his cheekbones gave others a sense of security. His handsome face demanded attention.