Jun Huang managed a stilted smile and exhaled deeply. “How about what happened to your operation base?”
Nan Xun nodded. “I’ve been investigating in the area the past few days and finally found evidence backing up my theory. Members of the House of Heavenly Fiends had been to the neighborhood days before the operation base was discovered. They must be involved somehow.”
He added as if remembering something, “Do you remember the token of the House of Heavenly Fiends?”
Jun Huang shook her head, befuddled. “What token? The one you showed me the other day?”
“No. You have one yourself that’s identical to mine.” Nan Xun took out his and handed it to Jun Huang. He explained how they’d acquired the tokens.
Jun Huang was silent as she listened to his story. She remembered nothing about the trial they’d gone through, and she hadn’t seen any such tokens when she woke up. Nan Xun took note of it when she voiced her doubts. He wondered where her token was.
That got him thinking. Had it been a coincidence for him and Jun Huang to undergo the trial, or had it been part of a grand plan? What did it mean for Jun Huang to lose her token?
Things were getting even more confusing. Nan Xun could feel a headache brewing. There were too many threads for him to investigate.
Jun Huang was deep in thought, her fists clenched and her nails biting into her palms. Veins popped out from her forehead. She looked like a woman possessed.
Nan Xun widened his eyes, noting her abnormal reactions. He wrapped his arms tight around her.
The warmth woke Jun Huang from her trance. She looked at him with unfocused eyes and finally said, “What’s wrong?”
Nan Xun’s throat felt tight. He shook his head and sighed in relief once Jun Huang recovered her senses. “Nothing. It’s all fine. You don’t have to worry too much. Overthinking can delay your recovery. We don’t want you thinking yourself into a corner.”
Jun Huang was sensitive enough to hear the fear in his voice. She nodded, but her lack of memory still made her feel insecure.
“Alright, it’s getting late. You should rest. I’ll tell you if I find anything.” Nan Xun picked Jun Huang up and gently placed her on the bed, tucking her in.
He didn’t immediately leave the room and instead stayed by her bed, holding her hand. Jun Huang’s heart slowly calmed. Exhaustion set in. She soon fell into a peaceful slumber, her breathing slow and steady.
Nan Xun watched her silently. She looked beautiful and untouchable in her sleep. He planted a dry kiss on her delicate hand and put out the lamp for her. He stopped to take a final look at Jun Huang when he reached the window.
Moonlight covered the room in a thin layer of silver. His yearning for her grew impossibly stronger. However, he couldn’t stay. He shifted his gaze to the bright moon and disappeared into the night.
The moon was still distant, and the wind cold. No trace had been left from his visit.
The sun had just risen when Jun Huang woke up. She looked out of the window, feeling a sense of loss and yearning.
Meanwhile, Nan Xun had made his way to the base of the House of Heavenly Fiends. There was no telling if his visit was expected. The old man in charge went through a myriad of expressions. Nan Xun played ignorant.
“I came to ask about Jun Hao,” Nan Xun said nonchalantly, playing it as a regular request for updates.
The old man nodded and got a confirmation from one of his subordinates. “He’s safe.”
Nan Xun’s eyebrows jumped up briefly. He wondered if the old man was lying to him, or telling him that Jun Hao hadn’t been hurt by his kidnappers.
He nodded without a word and turned to leave. The old man stopped him and leveled him with a piercing gaze that would expose all artifices.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“I’m just wondering why Your Highness is here,” the old man said with a smile. “Do you need our help?”
Nan Xun met his gaze like he was looking at his soul. He smiled. “Northern Qi and Eastern Wu are currently in a negotiation for peace, the result of which no one can predict. I can’t stay idle and do nothing, so I came to find out more about Eastern Wu. It’s always been said that one must know their enemies to be victorious.”
The old man laughed heartily, stroking his beard. They maintained the normalcy of a civil conversation. Neither had tried to break the illusion.
Nan Xun was getting tired of talking in riddles. He cupped his hands and said, “Please excuse me then. And I hope you can keep an eye on Jun Hao.”
The old man nodded with a wide smile and walked Nan Xun out of their base. Once outside, he asked again, “Are you sure you don’t need any help, Your Highness? Eastern Wu isn’t what it was before. Everyone is in danger. If someone with unknown agenda - ”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m good,” Nan Xun cut in. “They are no threat to me. Besides, I didn’t come alone. There’s no need for you to worry.”
He walked away. The old man looked at him with an unreadable expression.
Nan Xun soon left the House of Heavenly Fiends’ territory. The shadowguard who had been following him approached him and said, “Aren’t you worried they’ll expose you, Your Highness? If you’re discovered, the emperor will take the opportunity to fight back. We don’t have enough people with us to turn things around in that case.”
“They won’t tell the emperor,” Nan Xun said calmly, looking at the direction he’d come from. “They still think I’ve only just arrived at Eastern Wu. They won’t contact the authority until they know more. Besides, it’s not going to do them any good to expose me.”
“You must be on your guard, Your Highness,” the shadowguard said worriedly.
Nan Xun nodded in understanding. He wasn’t prone to overconfidence, but there was no use worrying about the unknown. He could only stay cautious.
He kept his thoughts to himself when he returned to Jun Huang.
He’d been preoccupied. It worried Jun Huang. After some hesitation, she asked, “What’s on your mind? Have something happened?”
Nan Xun met her eyes and shook his head in the end. He didn’t want her to think too much. It was too tiring. Sometimes, ignorance was bliss.
Jun Huang didn’t push. She lowered her eyes and said, “I hear the mountain behind the manor is beautiful at night. Let’s take a walk later.”
Nan Xun nodded in agreement. After dinner, they snuck out of the manor and went into the mountain. Jun Huang took a deep breath, enjoying the rare sense of liberation. Nan Xun looked at her with crinkling eyes. He’d like this moment to last forever.
Jun Huang turned to him. Her dark hair flew in the air, swept up by the night wind. Her clothes rustled and danced to the silent tune. She slowly approached Nan Xun with a small smile. “If there’s something troubling you, tell me. You don’t have to keep it to yourself. Maybe I can help.”
Nan Xun was warmed by her eagerness. Before he could say anything, an unnatural rustling sound came from the woods. He frowned, his eyes turning sharp.
Jun Huang could feel the tension in the air. It took some time for her to recover. Nan Xun pulled her to the side and hid her. “Stay here and don’t come out.”
Jun Huang nodded. She knew there was nothing she could do now. Without her memory, she was nothing but a burden.
After making sure Jun Huang was out of harm’s way, Nan Xun drew his sword and rushed to intercept the dozen of men dressed in black. Their eyes looked almost metallic in the dark, which could instill fear in regular people with a mere glance. Only those who had taken countless lives had eyes like theirs.
Nan Xun considered them coldly. The men came out of hiding since they’d been spotted. Their blades looked blindingly bright under the moonlight. Strangely, Jun Huang didn’t fear them. It was as if she’d been through this several times.
“Who are you?” Nan Xun had a feeling that these men were sent by the House of Heavenly Fiends, but he didn’t raise the question now. He wasn’t entirely sure about his speculation, and he was hesitant to bring up the House of Heavenly Fiends before Jun Huang.
The men didn’t intend to chit chat. They drew their swords without a word. Nan Xun narrowed his eyes and backed away when one of their blades was about to cut him. With a twist of his torso, he kicked the wielder in the arm, breaking his bones. The man dropped his sword in pain and fell to his knees, holding onto his arm.
The other men widened their eyes in shock, but quickly recovered. They exchanged a glance before charging at Nan Xun.
Nan Xun raised his sword. Before the first attack could land, he twirled his wrist and stabbed the man’s stomach. He huffed and pulled his sword out. The man collapsed as blood gushed out of the wound.