“I haven’t heard from Jun Huang ever since she left,” Nan Xun said worriedly, his brows furrowed. “I shouldn’t have let her go. She hadn’t fully recovered yet. What if something happens to her?”
Ji Bo paused. “Don’t worry too much, Your Highness. She’s clever, and fate will help those who are on the right side of history.”
Inside her residence, Jun Huang told the maid to relax and sit down. The maid didn’t dare to. She stood rigidly with sweat covering her forehead.
Jun Hunag glanced at the maid and didn’t force the issue. She turned around and walked up to the divan. Books of ancient text scattered atop, and there was unfinished needlework on the table.
She sat down on the divan and asked quietly, “Are all these mine?”
The maid jerked up and breathed out slowly, her expression relaxing as she approached Jun Huang with a nod. “They are. You’re good with needles, and you’re smart. You’ve memorized the Four Books and Five Classics, and reread them every once in a while. You were reading the books before the accident.”
Jun Huang lowered her eyes and tried to recall the memory, but came out blank. She rubbed at her forehead to soothe her headache. In her pain, she failed to notice how deliberately the items in the room had been placed.
“Are you alright, my lady?” the maid asked in panic.
Jun Huang ignored her discomfort and waved a dismissive hand. When the pain finally subsided, she looked up at the maid and chuckled. “It’s fine. I’d like a cup of water.”
The maid was worried, but she couldn’t disobey Jun Huang. She nodded and went off to retrieve some tea.
Jun Huang’s smile dropped. She picked up the needle, but she hadn’t a clue what she should do with it. She accidentally pricked her finger in her attempt. The maid called out in shock when she returned and quickly put the teapot on the table before using a silk handkerchief to wrap up Jun Huang’s injured finger.
“Are you sure I can do this?” Jun Huang asked nonchalantly, arching an eyebrow.
The maid paused and stared dumbly at Jun Huang for a moment. “You were good at it. You must have slipped because you aren’t feeling well.”
“Why didn’t I remember anything?” Jun Huang asked bluntly. “Since I have the time, tell me the story.”
A strange look flashed through the maid’s face as if she was contemplating something, but then she relaxed. “You’re the Grand Chancellor’s beautiful and talented daughter, my lady. You’ve been staying at home for years. Some time ago, you fell into a pond and got injured. You had been in coma for many days until you woke up.”
“I fell into a pond?”
“You did. As for the memory loss, you must have hit your head. That’s nothing to be worried about. You’ll recover after a while. No one will question you for that.”
Jun Huang lowered her eyes and finally nodded. She was feeling a little tired. She rose to her feet and lay down on the bed with the maid’s help.
When she woke up, the night had fallen. There wasn’t anyone around. She stayed there in deep thought, but she couldn’t form any concrete thoughts. She had a feeling she had forgotten something very important.
“Are you awake, my lady?” the maid called out from the door. She lit the lamp in the room and walked to the bed.
Jun Huang sat up and nodded at the maid. The maid asked if she’d like to have dinner in the dining hall. Jun Huang shook her head and said she’d just eat something in the room.
After dinner, the maid brought her a dress. When asked, she explained that Jun Huang would be going out with her mother tomorrow. Jun Huang dismissed the maid and sat idly on the bed.
Perhaps she was still ill. She fell asleep without lying down. It was morning when she woke up. The maid entered the room to help her cleaned up and get changed.
“I forgot to ask, where are we going today?” Jun Huang asked when the maid was combing her hair.
The maid was gentle with her hair like it was something to be protected. “Your mother was worried you’d never wake up, so she asked for Buddha’s blessing in the temple. Now that you’ve regained consciousness, she’s going to express her gratitude to the Buddha.”
Jun Huang nodded in understanding.
Soon, the maid had finished dressing Jun Huang up. The pink dress suited her. She stared at the bronze mirror, listening to the maid complimenting her. Something seemed to be missing.
No, someone. Someone who used to whisper sweet things in her ear.
The mistress sent for them. Jun Huang took a deep breath and walked outside. The sun was so bright it made her dizzy. She reflexively covered her eyes with her hand. The maid hurriedly shielded her with an umbrella.
The mistress was standing before a coach. She walked up to Jun Huang with a gentle smile. “Are you feeling better now?”
“Apologies for making you worry, mother,” Jun Huang said softly, her eyes lowered. “I’m fine. I’ll recover in a few days.”
The mistress patted her on the back of her hand, content. “That’s good. Don’t push yourself too hard. Take all the time you need to rest, alright?”
“I’ll follow mother’s advice.”
“Alright, get into the coach and let us go to the temple. If we visit later, there will be too many people for us to have a good time.”
The mistress climbed into the coach. Jun Huang followed after her and got in with the help of the servants. She sat down next to the mistress.
Jun Huang didn’t say anything. She was curious about the view outside, but before she could part the curtains, the woman stopped her, saying that a lady shouldn’t let her face be seen in public. Jun Huang paused and complied.
It didn’t take long for them to reach the temple. The air was filled with smoke. The monks’ chanting wisped through the buildings. It was peaceful.
“Follow me closely,” the mistress said, turning to face her. “This isn’t the manor. It’ll kill me if something happens to you again.”
Jun Huang nodded gently and gave her a smile, following her into the temple.
They didn’t immediately went to pay tribute to the Buhdda. The mistress first led her to where the abbot lived. An old man walked out to welcome them, his features gentle and his hands put together in greeting. “This must be your daughter. She seems to have recovered well. You shouldn’t be too worried, madam. It’s bad for your health.”
“Thank you for letting me pray that day and have her return from death,” said the mistress. “I was really scared then. That’s why I took her here to see the gods. Both to express our gratitude and to pray for a lifetime of peace.”
The abbot didn’t argue. He led them to the main hall outside. Jun Huang didn’t know what to do. She could only follow the mistress’s lead and paid tribute to the various gods worshipped here. Many of them she hadn’t even heard of.
She was almost relieved when they were done. She had planned to rest in the back garden of the temple, but the mistress turned her down immediately. The woman took her back to the Grand Chancellor’s manor and ordered a few servants to take her to rest.
Jun Huang was tired. Before she realized it, she was already back in her residence. Something felt wrong, but the mistress’s care seemed earnest. Perhaps too earnest.
She sat there for a long time, trying to sort through her thoughts. If she had merely lost her memory, why did the room she’d been staying in felt so foreign to her?
She couldn’t figure out an answer. Her headache grew intense and she lay down on her bed. She’d get some rest before doing anything else.
At midnight, she suddenly heard someone calling out for her. She’d thought she was dreaming, but then she felt an intense gaze boring into her. She widened her eyes and saw the silhouette of a man standing by her bed.
“Who are you?” She was wide awake. Fear overtook her and cold sweat drenched her clothes. Her eyes were bright as stars in the dark. Fear drained the color from her face, and her fingers trembled as she clutched her blanket, preparing for dangers to strike.
Yin Yun worried that he’d scared her. He hurried to explain, “Don’t be afraid, princess. It’s Yin Yun. Don’t you remember? I’m Prince Jun Hao’s personal shadow guard. We’ve seen each other before in the palace.”
Jun Huang frowned in confusion. “What did you call me? Princess?”
“What’s going on, princess?” Yin Yun realized that something was wrong. He went up to take Jun Huang’s wrist, but she slapped him before he could touch her. It took some time for him to recover from his shock. He quickly lit the lamp.
Jun Huang stared at the regular-looking man. She remembered nothing about him.
Her frown unsettled Yin Yun.
Her face was pale as she considered him. Once she made sure he wouldn’t hurt her, she calmed herself down and rubbed at her temple. “Tell me everything.”