“I’ll work on the medicine.” With that, Oleg Cragfiend turned and left the room, leaving Jun Huang and Nan Xun alone.
“Your master is a great doctor,” assured Nan Xun. “Don’t worry. He’ll restore your memory.”
Perhaps it was Nan Xun’s comforting words, or the inherent trust and familiarity she had with her master. Subconsciously, she believed her master would be able to cure her. It brightened her mood considerably.
Morning came. Jun Huang was invited by the mistress to get some fresh air in the garden. Jun Huang bathed in the warm sunlight, her expression relaxed when she thought about how she’d soon recover her memory. She looked stunning.
The mistress was surprised by her good mood. She asked with a smile, “You seem happier these days. Have something good happened to you? Care to share?”
Jun Huang dropped her smile and turned to the mistress. She scoffed inwardly when she remembered the young mistresses who’d picked on Nan Xun.
She lowered her eyes and said quietly, “I was just reminded of something amusing.”
Intrigued, the mistress asked, “What is it?”
Jun Huang paused, making the mistress curious, and finally said, “I didn’t mean to trouble mother, but it’s embarrassing...”
“It’s alright. You may be frank with me. No need to suppress yourself.” The mistress patted her hand reassuringly despite not knowing what she was going to say.
“To be honest with you, mother, third sister’s fiancé has been contacting me, sending me books and letters and claiming that he wanted to be with me. It’s laughable how shameless he can be. I didn’t want to bother mother with this, but upon reconsideration, it’d be worse if I say nothing. So...” Jun Huang lowered her eyes, her voice troubled.
The mistress scowled, trying her best to tamp down her fury. She took a deep breath and tried relaxing her hands. “Don’t fall for empty words, my child. Men like him are not to be trusted. Don’t be clouded by your emotions.”
Jun Huang nodded agreeably. “I do find him undependable as well. It’s such a hassle. But don’t worry, mother. I don’t feel anything for him.”
The mistress’s anger subsided. Even though she was still bothered, she wouldn’t direct that at Jun Huang. She could feel a headache brewing. She rose to her feet and excused herself.
Jun Huang lazily poured herself a cup of tea, watching the mistress walk away. She slowly drank her tea. The taste was first bitter, then sweet. Such was the way of life.
The mistress went to find the third young mistress and led her out of the manor without a word. The young mistress was confused, but she obediently followed her mother to the Li Manor.
The mistress didn’t intend to waste any time. She sought out Master Li and explained that she was here to terminate the marriage arrangement between the third young mistress and Gentleman Li. Neither expected the sudden turn of events.
The mistress didn’t give Gentleman Li an opportunity to explain. She scoffed. “Gentleman Li doesn’t take my daughter seriously, and my girl is too good for you. I hope you won’t bother us anymore. This is your final warning.”
She dragged her daughter away.
It took some time for the third young mistress to recover from her shock. She broke out of her mother’s grip and stared at her. “What’s the meaning of this, mother? Have you thought about my feelings before you broke off the marriage? I love him! You know that! Why would you do such a thing?”
The mistress calmly let her daughter vent and sighed at the sobbing girl. She pulled her into her arms. “I just want the best for you, my child. Do you know he’s been chasing after your sister after the banquet? If she hasn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known what an unreliable man he is!”
“We’re a respectful family,” offered the mistress. “How can we let such a shameless man deceive us?”
The third young mistress twisted her lips into an angry smile, her eyes brimming with tears. She took a deep breath and pulled out of her mother’s embrace, walking away from her like a soulless carcass. The mistress sighed.
The third young mistress didn’t return to her room. Instead, she sat in a pavilion and sneered as she thought back to what had happened. The resentment in her heart grew until she couldn’t contain it anymore. She shot to her feet and rushed toward Jun Huang’s residence.
Jun Huang was reading in the backyard when she heard the commotion. With a frown, she looked up and saw the third young mistress’s angry scowl. She put on a smile and greeted her.
“What’s the occasion, third sister?” Jun Huang asked. “I should be the one visiting you.”
The third young mistress sneered, eyes shooting daggers at Jun Huang. The guard who came with the third young mistress stepped between the two of them, worried that they would get into a fight and get hurt, which he would be held responsible for.
“I can’t believe you’d do that! How can you be so cruel?! Do you fancy yourself a real young mistress with the liberty to do anything you want?”
“Do you think we’ll believe that Brother Li has been chasing after you? A slut like you tells only lies! You must be the one who tried to seduce him!”
“You’re no better than a woman working in brothels!”
The third young mistress had been blinded by anger. She was so focused on humiliating Jun Huang she didn’t even know what she was talking about.
Jun Huang held herself with dignity and looked up at her, ignoring the insults thrown her way like she was a bystander.
Her calm reaction stoked the third young mistress’s ire. She lunged at Jun Huang. Fortunately, the guard had been watching them. He quickly stopped the young mistress from getting to Jun Huang.
Jun Huang put down her tea cup and looked at the young mistress. “I’ll welcome you if you’re here to see me, third sister, but I don’t know what to do when you blatantly slander me. You’ve crossed a line.”
“Ha, trying to attract sympathy now?” The third young mistress’s eyes were red. She bared her teeth like she was prepared to tear Jun Huang to pieces. “Do you take everyone as a fool? I know what you’ve done! Stop lying! People like you deserve everyone’s scorn!”
Eyes steely, Jun Huang took her cup and splashed the tea at the third young mistress. Everyone was shocked by her sudden outburst.
Unfazed by the disbelieving looks thrown her way, Jun Huang sat back down on the empress chair and poured herself another cup of tea. She glanced at the third young mistress. There were tea leaves on her face, and her hair stuck to her skin. The amber liquid dripped down from her chin, tainting her pink dress. She was a mess.
“I only show respect for you because you’re my older sister, but I can’t ignore what you’ve said,” Jun Huang said, her voice quiet but steely. “Are you drunk? Is that why you couldn’t control your tongue? If someone hears you, they’ll spread rumors. A girl as clever as you should know that, right?”
The third young mistress seemed to have come to her senses. She paused, her face going through a myriad of expressions. In the end, she stormed away with a scoff. The servants scattered as well.
Jun Huang wasn’t worried that the maid would tell on her to the mistress. She’d taken the verbal abuse for long enough, and for reasons she couldn’t be sure of, the mistress had been remarkably tolerant of her. Perhaps it was due to the conspiracy she was a part of.
Nan Xun soon heard about their argument. With a dark look in his eyes, he sought out Jun Huang.
“When did all that happen?” He took Jun Huang’s arm, forcing her to look at him. “Why didn’t you tell me? Has that man been trying to win you over?”
Subjected to Nan Xun’s fierce gaze, Jun Huang couldn’t be as calm as she had been facing the third young mistress. She averted her eyes and said carefully, “It’s not what you think. The third young mistress did come to me, but she hadn’t succeeded in doing anything. In fact, I hear that she was punished by the mistress.”
Her trying to evade the real question made Nan Xun even angrier, but he didn’t want to take it out on her. He took a deep breath and started tickling her again.
She pleaded for him to stop with tears in her eyes, “Alright! I’ll tell you!”
Nan Xun let go, his eyes locked on her. Jun Huang steadied her breathing and wiped away her tears. “He’s only sent a few letters to me. I don’t like him, so I have the letters burned without even reading them. I didn’t tell you because there wasn’t a need.”
Nan Xun knew Jun Huang was worried that he’d get jealous and do something reckless to jeopardize their plan. He sighed and pulled her into his arms.
He’d been trying to plan his next move. He’d been in Eastern Wu for a while, but many things remained unresolved. He couldn’t drag this on any longer. Since he couldn’t yet figure out what was happening with the House of Heavenly Fiends, he’d take care of other issues first.