Chapter 23: The Missing Relief Funds
“Oh? What kind of plans do you have now?” Jun Huang arched an eyebrow.
Nan Xun’s only response was a wordless smile. His expression was indifferent as he watched the light fade from sunset, and the occasional brisk breeze would toss up the jet black locks scattered over his shoulders. Jun Huang flicked a sidelong glance at Nan Xun. His usual imposing aura was gone from him for the moment, and the opulent brocade robes he wore only heightened his looks. This was completely different from the innate sense of awe and might he constantly projected in the capital, and Jun Huang actually found herself a bit entranced.
When she came back to her senses, she realized that Nan Xun was looking back at her with interest. Their eyes met, and Jun Huang’s heart skipped a beat in surprise. She subconsciously backed up a step, but her foot came down on air. She was about to tumble off the hill when Nan Xun frowned, and swiftly reached out. He pulled her in by the waist and drew her away from the edge.
Startled, Jun Huang leaned on Nan Xun’s chest. When she regained her senses and realized how inappropriate their position was, she hastily pushed Nan Xun away. A deep blush colored her cheeks and she refused to look at his smiling eyes. Instead, she began to worry at her lip and stared at the sandy ground, taking a deep breath in an attempt to adjust her mental state. She raised her eyes to meet his only after her pounding heart had settled, as if nothing had just happened.
“It’s late, let’s go back. The second prince will be suspicious if we’re any later.” Jun Huang descended down the hill via a small path as Nan Xun bought up the rear.
“Has the wound on your arm healed fully?” Nan Xun pretended to be artless as he casually asked on their way back.
“How did you know the injury was on my arm?” Jun Huang furrowed her brow and halted when she heard his question.
“Qi Chen happened to mention it one day.”
Jun Huang was even more suspicious of that answer. She didn’t think that Qi Chen would mention to Nan Xun that she had been injured. She was skeptical, but didn’t say anything else and responded faintly, “The wound on my arm is mostly healed. Thank you for your concern, Your Highness.”
Nan Xun opened his mouth, wanting to say something more. But after a thought struck him, he didn’t voice it. The two didn’t speak again on their way back to the inn.
That night, Jun Huang tossed and turned on her bed as sleep continued to evade her. She finally sat up and happened to notice that the window hadn’t been closed. When she walked up to the window to close it, she glanced outside and happened to see a man dressed in black sneak into Nan Xun’s room. Jun Huang frowned, feeling something afoot. She weighed the decision for a moment, but in the end turned to reach for the clothes on the rack behind her. After fixing her hair, she slipped out of her room and slowly approached Nan Xun’s room.
“Your Highness, we’ve already found out where the second prince is hiding the silver.” The hidden guard reported to Nan Xun.
Nan Xun had yet to go to bed and had been reading when the guard snuck in to report. He put down his book and looked at the guard. “Where?”
The guard was about to respond when a black cat suddenly darted through the darkness. Jun Huang gasped softly in her surprise, but the sound traveled to the ears of the two inside.
“Who’s there?!” Nan Xun’s eagle eyes went flat as he leaped to his feet. The guard’s hand was already on his sword hilt as he sprang silently to the door, unsheathing his blade in the same moment he yanked the door open. The cold blast of air from the sword froze Jun Huang’s words in her throat. No matter what, she couldn’t summon a single sound in her defense.
Nan Xun had been hot on the heels of his guard. A sigh of relief escaped him as he recognized Jun Huang. He gestured for the guard to stand down after a quick look around, and pulled her into the room.
“Why haven’t you slept yet?” Nan Xun asked. Jun Huang didn’t respond or change her expression in any way as she sized up the guard. Judging from Nan Xun’s behavior, the guard knew that she was one of them and raised his hands in a cupped fist salute as a greeting. She nodded in response and looked at Nan Xun.
Nan Xun knew what she was asking and didn’t beat around the bush. “I know where the silver is.”
“Where?” Jun Huang asked reflexively, realizing her anxiousness only after the question left her mouth. She couldn’t help but want to laugh. How comical that I’m so worried on behalf of a bunch of strangers after my home and country were lost. However, Nan Xun didn’t feel the same way. He was looking at Jun Huang and sighing internally. No matter how savage her recent experiences have been, it seems it hasn’t extinguished the innate kindness in this girl. A complex knot of emotions tugged at his heart, one that he had no way to describe. After a moment of silence, Nan Xun recollected his thoughts and looked at the hidden guard, wanting him to explain.
“After two days of surveillance, we are certain that the second prince has stashed the additional silver in the yamen.”
“Are you certain?” Jun Huang frowned. The guard nodded. She lowered her head and thought for a moment, then looked to Nan Xun. “So you’ve already thought of a plan?”
“I didn’t have one to begin with. We can’t go interrogate Qi Chen; he might bite us in return. The only solution is to take it forcefully.” Nan Xun relayed his thoughts honestly.
“Take it?” Jun Huang was confused.
“We’ve already prepared everything. We’re going to dress up as robbers and break into the yamen.” Nan Xun nodded.
“That’s not breaking and entering, we’re just taking back what belongs to the people.” Jun Huang smiled. After a quick second to think, she added, “I’m in as well.”
“No, you aren’t.” Nan Xun refused without a second’s hesitation. His furrowed brows and strong attitude projected the air that his decision was not up for debate, but was Jun Huang any ordinary person?
She glared ferociously at Nan Xun and crossed her arms. “I must go. If you don’t take me with you, I’ll tell Qi Chen.”