Nan Xun was still worried, but he had to make the smart decision here. With a sigh, he returned to the manor. He walked through the garden with the housekeeper at his tail. The old man sympathized with his plight. “Your Highness has been awake for a long time. You should take a break. Otherwise Gentleman Feng will be worried once he returns.”
Nan Xun looked up at him and laughed silently. “If he returns safely, I’ll gladly let him scold me,” he said in a bitter tone. “However, we don’t know if he’s alive or not. How can I relax?”
He shook his head and sighed. “Alright, I want to stay on my own for a while. You may go now. Don’t worry about me.”
The housekeeper wasn’t going to argue. Seeing his master’s bloodshot eyes and tired gait, he told the servants to prepare things of the soothing nature.
Nan Xun was going to go back to his room for a short rest, but he arrived outside Jun Huang’s bedroom before he realized it. He frowned when he noticed that the door was open. One of the maids must have forgotten to close it when cleaning the room.
He was about to close the door when he spotted muddy footprints on the floor.
With his brows furrowed in deep thought, he walked in slowly, careful not to alert whoever it was inside, but not so slow that the person would run away.
He walked around the screen with his breath held. Someone was in the bed.
It was Jun Huang.
He slumped down with an exhale, his rattled nerves finally relaxed.
He walked up to the bed. She looked pale as a sheet and there were twigs sticking out from her hair. She was dressed in women’s clothes, her face and clothes covered in mud. She was a mess, and she smelled.
Nan Xun didn’t care. What mattered was she was safe. With his exhaustion catching up with him, he toed off his boots and lay down next to her, staring at her peaceful profile. He gently touched her face, his heart aching with both fear and delight.
He pulled her into his arms. She muttered something intelligible, but didn’t wake from her slumber. He considered her with narrowed eyes. He wanted to take her pain away.
He fell asleep, but it was a light one. He worried that she would disappear again when he woke up. He kept part of himself conscious.
It was noon when Jun Huang woke up. The sun was bright, covering the room in a warm glow. She heard quiet breathing coming from her side. She turned and saw Nan Xun lying next to her. It wasn’t the first time they shared a bed. She felt more at ease than bashful.
All the fear she’d felt the previous days vanished the moment she saw him, leaving only warmth spreading through her body and a smile tugging at her lips.
Her quiet gaze was what Nan Xun saw when he woke up suddenly. Jun Huang fell into his deep and unfocused eyes. He quickly blinked his haziness away.
“How do you feel?” Nan Xun asked nervously as he sat up. “Are you hurting?”
Jun Huang shook her head and said with a reassuring smile. “I’m fine.” She lowered her head and looked awkwardly at the state she was in. Without missing a beat, Nan Xun stood up and patted her head. “Stay here for a bit. I’ll have someone draw a bath for you. It’ll help soothe your exhaustion. We’ll talk later.”
A few servants brought a barrel of hot water into the room not long after. They knew Jun Huang didn’t like being served, so they left after filling the tub with hot water.
Jun Huang took off her clothes and soaked herself in the bath, her exhaustion draining away. She washed away the grime on her body and finally felt less like she was going to break out of her skin.
Just when she was getting sleepy, a knock on the door jerked her awake. She blinked and cleared her throat. “What is it?”
“Are you going to be done soon?” asked Nan Xun, his strong voice booming through the door. “Dinner is ready. You haven’t eaten anything the past couple of days, have you? You must be starving.”
The moment she was reminded, she got almost painfully aware of her empty stomach. She made a sound of assent and walked out of the tub. After wiping herself dry, she put on some clean clothes.
Nan Xun was still waiting for her when she walked out of the door. His heart skipped when he saw her rosy cheeks and misty eyes. He stared at her, unable to look away.
Jun Huang frowned at her clothes and didn’t notice anything unusual. “What?‘
“Nothing. You look good.” Nan Xun smiled and took her hand, leading her to the dining hall like it was the most natural thing in the world. Jun Huang looked at their entwined fingers, her lips curved into a smile as she followed after him.
It wasn’t the first time the servants saw them being this intimate, but for some reason, there was something different about the way the two of them acted now.
Perhaps it was just that Nan Xun had been even more attentive to Jun Huang. He’d recovered her after thinking he’d lost her.
Only Jun Huang knew that she was letting Nan Xun get closer. She was trying to accept his feelings and tender gestures. Perhaps it was because of how safe she’d felt when she saw him after waking up.
No one questioned what they saw, and Jun Huang didn’t question her reaction. It seemed insignificant now.
During dinner, Nan Xun didn’t immediately ask her what had happened the past two days. He waited until she was close to finish before asking, “Who took you and what happened?”
Jun Huang met his eyes and told him everything. Her tone turned sorrowful when she mentioned the woman who had saved her at the cost of her own life.
Nan Xun frowned. He didn’t like seeing her sad. He sighed and patted her shoulder comfortingly. “She volunteered to save you. She wouldn’t want you to feel regretful. What is done has been done. There’s nothing we can do to change the past. We can only live with it.”
“Even so, I was the reason that she wouldn’t even get a proper burial,” Jun Huang choked out with her eyes closed. “How can I be at peace with that?”
Nan Xun took her fingers and struggled to find the right words. He knew that time would be the only medicine here. There was nothing he could say to make her feel better.
After a silent pause, he said, “This should serve as a lesson. You should stay in the manor for the time being, or Qi Chen’s men may find you.”
Jun Huang nodded. They resumed eating without a word.
Afterwards, Jun Huang stayed in the manor every day without complain. She often went to the back garden to feed the koi fish during daytime. The fish seemed to be enjoying itself, but the monotonous life was starting to get to her.
Nan Xun was told that Jun Huang was in the back garden again as soon as he returned. When he saw her, she was sitting on a rock by the pond with fish feed in her hand. Her mind was elsewhere.
She didn’t notice Nan Xun until he’d been standing by her side for a good moment. She looked up at him quietly with unfocused eyes. He frowned and sat down next to her. “Bored?”
“Do you think I’m like a fish in the pond?” Jun Huang raised an eyebrow and didn’t answer his question.
Nan Xun knew what she was implying. She was more talented than most people, and yet she was trapped in this manor because of the circumstances. How could she be happy? Everyone knew she was not someone who’d be willing to stay in a little pond.
“How about this. I’ll go to the housekeeper and ask him to let you help with his duty. What do you say?” He spoke carefully and added, “The housekeeper’s getting old. You may fill his position temporarily until we find the right candidate.”
“That’ll be good,” she said with a smile. “At least I’ll have something to do.”
Nan Xun told the housekeeper about his plan. The housekeeper readily agreed and made the arrangements to hand off his job. No one knew Nan Xun’s true intention.
He wanted Jun Huang to get used to being the other master of his household.
Jun Huang assumed that he was simply trying to fill her time. She’d always been a careful person, and she took her new job seriously, not wanting to betray Nan Xun’s trust. The housekeeper had been worried about her in the beginning, but his worry was proven to be unwarranted after only a few days.
When Nan Xun didn’t have to go to the training ground, he’d stay in the study with Jun Huang. She was usually going over the accounting book, while he took care of his paperwork. They gave each other room to work, but occasionally they’d exchange a few words.
Jun Huang had always been a quiet person. She wouldn’t interrupt his work unless she had questions she needed to ask. Nan Xun snuck glances at her every once in a while, taking in the way her forehead creased in concentration. His heart melted.
He felt at peace with her by his side. Life couldn’t be better.
He kept his thoughts to himself. He didn’t want to break the careful balance they’d reached.
Today, they stayed in the study as usual. Suddenly they heard someone talking outside. Nan Xun threw a glance at Jun Huang before walking out of the door. The housekeeper was leading Qi Yun toward the study. The two of them engaged in a pleasant conversation.
The housekeeper left after spotting Nan Xun, who took Qi Yun into the study. Jun Huang looked up when she heard the door closing. She was a little surprised to see the prince here.Previous Chapter Next Chapter