Nan Xun’s heart clenched when he saw the sweat covering Jun Huang’s forehead. He wiped it off for her. “Scared?”
Jun Huang waved a dismissive hand and looked at Jun Hao silently. Nan Xun was a little worried that Jun Hao was still unconscious, but he didn’t let it show. “Do you recognize him?”
Jun Huang glanced at him before carefully considering Jun Hao. She shook her head. “I do think he looks familiar. It’s like we’ve known each other for a long time. However, I don’t recall anything.”
That didn’t surprise Nan Xun, but he was still a little disappointed. He sighed. “It’s alright that you can’t remember now. You will eventually.”
A pause, and Jun Huang asked, “Does that make you sad?”
Her tone was gentle and careful. Nan Xun gazed deeply into her eyes and chuckled, ruffling her hair. “Of course I am, but that doesn’t change anything. I’m not going to leave you. I’ll wait until you remember your past, or find some way to help you. I’m sure you’ll recover your memory sooner or later.”
“Didn’t you tell me you remembered bits and pieces? You just need something to trigger your memory. You do know Jun Hao. You simply - ” Nan Xun stopped himself and lowered his eyes, his expression a little dejected.
He was glad that Jun Huang had remembered something, but after that came a sense of loss. He wanted her to remember everything about him.
He told himself to be patient.
“Alright, let’s get out of here first.” Nan Xun carried Jun Hao with one hand and took Jun Huang’s wrist with the other. They made their way out of the alley and reached Nan Xun’s temporary residence.
Nan Xun placed Jun Hao on the bed. Jun Huang pursed her lips staring at the pale boy, her heart aching.
Nan Xun didn’t know what he could do to make things better. In the end, he left the siblings alone and ordered a shadowguard to get a doctor.
When Jun Huang came out of the room, she’d put on her calm mask again. It was as if her pain had all been an illusion.
“It’s time for me to return,” said Jun Huang. “If I get exposed, it’ll be troublesome.”
Nan Xun nodded and patted her shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t worry. It’s safe here. My shadowguards will protect him. No one can take Jun Hao away. Now, we have to return to make sure those in the Grand Chancellor’s manor don’t notice anything wrong. The rest can wait.”
“My lady, we’ve been looking for you. Why are you here?” The maid found “Jun Huang” in a pavilion. She frowned and jogged up to her.
Jun Huang looked back at the maid, her eyes dark and unreadable. She lowered her gaze and smiled. “I was bored, so I came without telling you. Apologies for making you worry.”
For some reason, the maid felt there was something odd about Jun Huang today. She was usually cold and unapproachable. It wasn’t like her to say what she’d said. However, She didn’t look any different.
Jun Huang frowned in response to the maid’s open stare. The maid quickly lowered her eyes, showing Jun Huang the utmost respect.
When no one was looking, “Jun Huang” let out a long breath. Under her sleeve, her palms were covered in sweat.
It was silent for a moment. She sat down and poured herself a cup of tea. A hint of sweetness lingered in her mouth after the bitter taste.
Catching the maid sneaking glances at her, she stared at the maid and scoffed. “What have I done to warrant such scrutiny from you?”
The maid dropped down to her knees and shuddered. Everyone knew the mistress had slapped the third young mistress for Jun Huang. In their eyes, the third mistress had done nothing wrong, and yet she was the one being punished. They knew what the implications were and considered Jun Huang someone they mustn’t offend.
The maid didn’t dare get up without Jun Huang’s say-so. She stayed kneeling on the cold bluestone. The others watched and did nothing, too afraid to speak up for the maid.
It was getting dark. A pageboy from the front building rushed to them. “My lady, master asked you to join them for dinner. He said it was rare for everyone in the family to be here. It’d be nice to share a meal together.”
“Jun Huang” nodded and rose to her feet. She glanced at the maid and scoffed. “Do you need me to help you up?”
The maid got to her feet and stayed by Jun Huang’s side, suppressing her pain.
“Jun Huang” was panicking a little. She knew the real Jun Huang didn’t treat her servants like this, but if she did nothing, the maid would notice something wrong. She might as well intimidate the maid so that the maid wouldn’t be watching her.
As she’d planned, the maid wasn’t even focused on her on their way to the dining hall. When they reached their destination, the others had already arrived. They greeted Jun Huang with forced politeness.
“Jun Huang” smiled awkwardly and tried her best to keep up with the conversation. Still, maintaining the front was enough to make her sweat. She covered her mouth and coughed, her face turning pale. The mistress started and worriedly took her hand.
“What’s wrong, my child? Feeling sick?”
“Jun Huang” lowered her eyes and pulled away, hiding her hand under her sleeve to prevent the mistress from noticing the callouses accumulated from years of sword wielding. She coughed again and said weakly, “I must have caught a cold from staying in the pavilion for too long. I don’t feel too good. Please excuse me. I don’t want to ruin the mood.”
The Grand Chancellor frowned deeply. He motioned at the servants to help her back to her residence. The mistress was angry at them for not taking good enough care of her. “Jun Huang” spent some time talking her out of punishing the servants.
She made her way out with the maid’s help and returned to her room, telling the maid to leave her alone. She knew the mistress had sent for a doctor. She worried that the real Jun Huang wouldn’t be able to return before the doctor arrived.
Cold sweat streamed down her face. She opened the door and looked outside. The darkness didn’t make her feel any better.
She took off her mask, revealing a stoic and masculine face.
Jun Huang and Nan Xun rushed back to the manor later than they’d expected because of Jun Hao. Jun Huang was worried that Yin Yun might have gotten exposed. Although he was a master of disguise, at the end of the day he was a man. He wouldn’t be able to play a woman perfectly.
Yin Yun should be having dinner with the Grand Chancellor as her, but when they passed by her residence, the lamp was lit. Both Jun Huang and Nan Xun panicked a little. Had Yin Yun been discovered?
They quickly calmed down and snuck close to the building out of everyone’s sight. They entered the room through the window.
Yin Yun sighed in relief when he saw them. He rushed to Jun Huang. “Long story short, I claimed to be sick to avoid getting exposed. However, the mistress insisted on getting a doctor out of worry. He’ll arrive soon. It’s fortunate that you’ve returned.”
Jun Huang quickly grasped the situation. She nodded and said in concern, “I’m not sick, though. The doctor will notice that.”
“Don’t worry.” Yin Yun took out a small ceramic bottle and opened the lid. Out rolled a round pill. “This can make you weak and disturb your energy. You’ll go back to normal afterwards. No side effects.”
Voices could be heard from outside. Jun Huang threw her reservation out of the window and swallowed the pill. She put on some makeup to make her look even more ill. Her legs went weak after taking a few steps.
Nan Xun hurriedly caught her and placed her on the bed. He didn’t blame Yin Yun. The pill was doing what it was supposed to do. As the voices got closer, he quickly tucked her under the blanket and went into hiding with Yin Yun.
The door opened. Jun Huang looked up and saw the mistress leading a doctor into the room. The mistress hurried to the bed, surprised by how ill she looked. She took Jun Huang’s cold fingers and asked worriedly, “How are you, my child?”
Jun Huang gave her a sickly smile and shook her head. “Don’t worry, mother. I’m fine. I’ll be alright after some rest.”
She covered her mouth and coughed.
The doctor put a handkerchief over her wrist and took her pulse. He thought for a moment with a hand idly stroking his beard. “Her old illness relapsed, and she’s caught a slight cold. The coldness clashed with the heat in her body and disrupted her system.”
He sighed. “She would be fine after some rest. It’s best that she stay in the room until she recovers. Have some bird’s nest soup every day. I’ll also write up a prescription for her. She should recover in a few days.”
He got prepared to leave. The mistress gave the maid a pointed look, silently telling her to walk the doctor out.