After a brief pause, Nan Xun twisted his lips into a sharp, mocking smile and took a couple steps backward, his eyes blazing with rage. “I didn’t know you’d be so petty, Nan Jihan. You don’t deserve your title. Good, enjoy your time on the throne.”
He turned to leave, his movement so sharp it was as if he was declaring Nan Jihan his enemy if they ever met again.
Nan Jihan sighed, watching him walk away.
Oleg Cragfiend entered the main hall and sat down on a divan. He poured himself a cup of tea, savoring the flavor.
“I don’t get why you’re not willing to help. Isn’t she your disciple? Aren’t you worried about her condition?” Nan Jihan furrowed his brows. He’d been conditioned to worry about Jun Huang’s health when she was at her weakest. He worried that she’d still be as ill the next time they met. He couldn’t stop his frustration from seeping into his tone.
Oleg Cragfiend glanced at him. “You didn’t sound particularly eager for me to help Nan Xun.”
Nan Jihan scratched his head awkwardly and admitted, “I don’t like Nan Xun. I don’t like how little he’s done for Baiyu even after all the sacrifice she’s made for him. However, you must know that I… don’t want her to suffer. I was simply venting my anger. Of course I want her to get better. Why don’t you help her?”
Oleg Cragfiend gave him a meaningful look and shook his head. “Things are more complicated than it seems. We can no longer be of help.”
His words didn’t make sense to Nan Jihan. After a long pause, Oleg Cragfiend sighed and continued, “Don’t worry too much. The poison has been cleansed from her system, and from my diagnosis last time, she’s weakened, but not in any real danger. The fact that Nan Xun had come himself rather than sent a servant proves my point.”
“But why are you unwilling to leave with Nan Xun?” Nan Jihan couldn’t figure out an answer. Why would the poison master ask him to tell Nan Xun he’d already left knowing what Nan Xun had come for?
Oleg Cragfiend glanced at his thoughtful expression and walked up to the window, looking at the gathering clouds outside. After a pause, he said gravely, “There is someone we can’t see watching him.”
Nan Jihan was even more confused, but Oleg Cragfiend didn’t seem willing to explain. They stood there in silent company.
Nan Xun’s anger gradually died down after leaving the palace. He stayed the night at the relay station and immediately set out for Eastern Wu. He was too concerned to leave Jun Huang to deal with those with unknown agenda on her own. He decided to stay to protect her and keep her company.
He didn’t just barge into the manor like he had last time. Instead, he came up with a plan.
He was lucky that the manor was looking for servants. Anyone interested were welcomed to apply for the job.
He was going to get it no matter what he had to do. He changed into some cheap clothes and made himself look like an average peasant before entering the manor with a group of applicants.
After a round of selection, Nan Xun and the remaining candidates were led to the main building of the manor. The housekeeper would make the final judgement. He raised an eyebrow at the dozen of men standing in the courtyard. He patted each of their muscular shoulders and nodded.
“What are you good at?” the housekeeper asked Nan Xun, considering him like he would a commodity.
Nan Xun lowered his eyes and responded respectfully, “I’m poor and know only how to do crude manual work. I’m not as talented as the others here, but, um, my mother said I’m a thorough sweeper.”
The housekeeper looked at the brown-nose of a servant standing next to him, who rushed to the housekeeper with a servile smile and said, “What a coincidence. The young mistress is in need of a good sweeper. And this one is built sturdy. If dangers strike, he’ll make a good human shield.”
“Have you done a background check?” the housekeeper asked, stroking his beard.
The servant nodded. “I have. He’s a simple and honest man. Nothing suspicious about his background.”
The housekeeper relaxed and patted Nan Xun on the shoulder. “Follow the servant to the lady’s residence. She happens to need a sweeper. However, you know what you’re getting into. You better watch yourself. You’ll be rewarded for doing your job well.”
Nan Xun nodded and followed after the servant, his lips curved into a smile after he turned around. It wasn’t difficult for a prince like him to forge a credible identity. And he’d found out beforehand that there was a vacancy at Jun Huang’s residence for a sweeper.
They soon reached their destination. The servant didn’t leave until he’d given Nan Xun some pointers and warnings. Nan Xun didn’t immediately seek out Jun Huang and instead focused on sweeping the fallen leaves in the garden.
Jun Huang saw a servant sweeping the ground from the corner of her eye when she went on a walk with her maid in tow. There was something familiar about him that made her come to a halt. Her eyes widened slightly when she got a good look at his face. She almost laughed.
The maid quickly explained, “The housekeeper said he’s new. He’ll be on cleaning duty starting today. You may pretend he doesn’t exist, my lady.”
“Ah, I don’t feel like resting now. Prepare some food for me. I’ll take a seat here.” Jun Huang motioned at the maid to get going. The maid hesitated, but in the end nodded and left without a word.
Once she was out of earshot, Jun Huang walked up to Nan Xun and laughed, her eyes crinkling and her brows curved, her smile stunning under the sun. Nan Xun looked around to make sure no one was around before putting down the broom and pulling her to the side. He relaxed after making sure she was alright.
“Don’t attract any attention,” Nan Xun said.
Jun Huang nodded, her smile deepening. “I know. I just didn’t expect you to do something like this. Aren’t you a prince? It’s weird you’ll be sweeping here, isn’t it?”
Nan Xun gave her a pointed look and she quickly schooled her expression into one of indifference. The maid walked up to them with a plate of desserts. She placed it on the stone table and looked over at them. “What’s the matter, my lady?”
Jun Huang steadied herself and gave the maid an appropriate smile. “Nothing. I just want to see if the new servant can do his job well. If not, I’ll have him replaced.”
The maid smiled in understanding. “Ah, don’t worry, my lady. If that’s the case, I’ll test him for you.”
“It’s fine. I don’t have anything better to do. I can watch him sweep myself. Go back to what you were doing. I’ll return to my room myself when I get tired.” Jun Huang gave the maid a calm but commanding glance. The maid nodded and reminded the servants to keep an eye on Jun Huang. They were to notify her immediately if anything unusual happened.
Jun Huang smiled and walked up to Nan Xun. “Get me a chair.”
Nan Xun wasn’t sure what exactly she was going to do, but he nodded and walked into the building to get a chair. Before he could pick up a stool, Jun Huang pointed at the empress chair in the corner and said, “I want that.”
Nan Xun raised an eyebrow at her and nodded. He didn’t even break a sweat as he moved the empress chair into the backyard. Jun Huang took a seat and idly watched Nan Xun pick up the broom.
Nan Xun wouldn’t be a good general if he still didn’t get what Jun Huang was doing. He smiled with fond resignation and started sweeping.
She rested her chin on her palm, trying to see what he’d done wrong. As expected, Nan Xun might be an experienced fighter, but sweeping was completely foreign to him. He did a decent enough job, but it wasn’t that difficult to spot his mistakes.
“There, leaves you haven’t cleaned up.”
“If every servant works like you do, the manor would be paying a fortune for nothing but poor service.”
“Pay more attention! If you don’t do a better job, I’m going to tell the housekeeper to replace you.”
Jun Huang kept picking on him, but her smile was as bright as the sun. Nan Xun was somewhat exasperated, but he wanted her to keep smiling. He thus made mistakes deliberately and let Jun Haung had her fun. He was happy as long as she was.
Yin Yun watched them from a hidden corner. Something about their interaction caught his eye, but he didn’t know what it was. It was just odd to see someone as untouchable as a goddess like Jun Huang acting so much like a regular woman. It was akin to seeing a celestial falling to the mundane world, unable to return to heaven again. She… lost that air of aloofness to her.
However, he knew it wasn’t a bad thing for Jun Huang to recover her humanity. No one had been able to melt the ice encasing her heart before. She was fortunate to encounter a man who could make her happy for the rest of her life.
He sighed and walked away without making any sounds. No one even knew he’d been there.
The next few days, Jun Huang often stayed in the garden ordering Nan Xun around. The youngest mistress of the manor, who had come to visit her with the maid leading the way, happened to witness her doing that.