Nan Xun had been getting busier, not only because of Jun Huang, but also because of his investigation on Eastern Wu. Some tasks were too tricky to leave in others’ hands.
Oleg Cragfiend had been staying at Nan Xun’s residence. He spent most of his time developing different medicines to help Jun Huang while keeping an eye on Jun Hao. He’d come to know Nan Xun better.
The general was indeed deeply in love with Jun Huang, and the same was true for her. Despite her lack of memory, Nan Xun was still the person she trusted the most. They could communicate with only a glance.
A match made in heaven, so to speak.
Today, Yin Yun had again taken Nan Xun’s place in the manor. Nan Xun was off dealing with god-knows-what.
It was getting dark. Oleg Cragfiend looked outside and decided to go to rest, but then he heard that Nan Xun was back. Since he had the time, he sought out Nan Xun.
Nan Xun was resting with his eyes closed. It was clear he’d spent his day hard at work. Oleg Cragfiend sighed. “You’ve been busy. Don’t worry too much about Jun Huang. Yin Yun will take care of her.”
Nan Xun opened his eyes and glanced at Oleg Cragfiend. After a long pause, he finally said, “I’ll take care of everything. There’s no need for you to be worried.”
“I know you can, but don’t forget that Jun Huang doesn’t have her memory now,” Oleg Cragfiend said seriously, fed up with Nan Xun’s stubbornness. “I don’t want her to get hurt again. There’s someone in your circle manipulating everything. We don’t know what he wants. Can you guarantee that whoever it is won’t hurt her?”
Nan Xun narrowed his eyes, his expression turning cold. “I know. I’ve been trying to root them out. I won’t let anything happen to Jun Huang.”
Oleg Cragfiend wasn’t in a place to say much as an outsider, and Nan Xun did take very good care of Jun Huang. Although there was a hidden force following Nan Xun around, he had been perfectly in control. Oleg Cragfiend stopped arguing and left Nan Xun to it.
Nan Xun was in a dark mood on his way to the Grand Chancellor’s manor. He was stopped by the maid before he could enter.
He frowned and led the maid to a dark corner. She took a deep breath. “There’s a banquet in the palace tomorrow. The mistress will take your girl with her.”
Nan Xun nodded and handed her a letter. She quickly relaxed and rushed away.
Nan Xun looked at her with an impassive expression.
There were two ways to buy someone’s cooperation - profit, and favors. Nan Xun had been trying to bribe Jun Huang’s personal maid, but to no avail. He was ready to give up when he discovered that the maid had a lover outside the manor. They adored each other, but rarely had the chance to meet. She could only catch a glimpse of him when she had the opportunity to leave the manor.
Nan Xun told her he could help. The maid didn’t know about his true identity. She thought Nan Xun and Jun Huang were lovers who couldn’t be together openly, which reminded her of herself. In the end, she acquiesced and kept Nan Xun’s meetings with Jun Huang a secret. Nan Xun would arrange for the maid and her lover to meet every now and then and played messenger for them.
He waited outside for a moment before entering the room. Jun Huang was picking clothes for tomorrow. He sat down at the table and poured himself a cup of tea.
Jun Huang put down the turquoise dress in her hand and looked up to see Nan Xun sitting not far from her. He had a frown on his face, making his dark mood apparent. She couldn’t tell what was bothering him.
She walked up to him and asked gently, “What’s on your mind? Did you encounter something troublesome?”
Nan Xun stared at her and put away his concerns. He smiled. “Nothing important. It’s just the banquet you’re going to tomorrow. I worry that some aristocrats will be stunned by your beauty and ask for your hand. Then the mistress may marry you away.”
His tone was serious. Jun Huang lowered her head and snorted, missing the flash of adoration and amusement in his eyes. She thought Nan Xun’s jealousy was real. She rested her head on her palm and tried to come up with an assurance, but to no avail. Her shoulders slumped dejectedly.
The maid knocked and only entered once Jun Huang answered her. Noting the awkward atmosphere in the room, she silently placed the dresses bundled in her arms on the table.
“What are these?” asked Jun Huang, looking up at the maid.
“Nanny told me to deliver them to you,” answered the maid. “The mistress had them tailor-maid for you a few days ago. They arrived today. She said you should pick one for tomorrow, my lady.”
Jun Huang nodded. The first one she picked up was a turquoise dress. Before she could try it on, Nan Xun took it and threw it at the bed. Faced with Jun Huang’s questioning look, he explained, “It’s not a good choice.”
Nan Xun wasn’t going to tell her how beautiful she looked wearing that. After a pause, he said, “Every woman in the palace will be dressed in vibrant colors at the banquet. If you wear that, you’ll be the leaves to their flowers.”
He sounded so sincere Jun Huang didn’t notice anything wrong. She picked a dress of a more vibrant color, but Nan Xun grabbed it and threw it away again. “Not that either.”
He kept vetoing her choice. Jun Huang might have believed his explanation in the beginning, but she soon realized what he was doing. She shot him a glare. “Then what should I wear?”
Nan Xun’s eyes shifted between the best looking dress and the ugliest one, which didn’t escape Jun Huang’s attention. She got his unspoken message and marched toward Nan Xun. Before he could react, she stepped on his foot.
Nan Xun winced and got kicked out of the room. “You’re the worst! I’ll pick the dress myself. I don’t need you taking up space here.” She shut the door and ignored Nan Xun’s insistent knocking.
The maid covered a laugh. After that came a great sense of melancholy. When would she get to spend her time freely with her lover?
She lowered her eyes and sighed. Jun Huang was still trying to pick out a dress. She kept what she had witnessed to herself.
Jun Huang finally settled on a plain looking dress. She sighed at her reflection in the mirror.
Her sleep that night was peaceful. When she woke up, Nan Xun was right at her bed. She blinked at him, puzzled. “Why are you here?”
“There aren’t enough guards to spare for the banquet today. The housekeeper thinks I’ll do a decent job, so he told me to go with you.” Nan Xun didn’t directly answer her question. He asked which dress she was going to put on. It seemed that what Jun Huang said yesterday had some effects. He didn’t say a word of objection.
The maid came to style her hair, but then Jun Huang insisted on putting on makeup herself. The maid left without arguing.
Jun Huang sat before the mirror, carefully outlining her eyebrows. Nan Xun was concerned. Some of the guests might have seen Jun Huang before. He worried that someone would recognize her, then they would be in a world of trouble. He kept telling Jun Huang to put more makeup on.
Jun Huang understood his worries, but she didn’t think someone would remember a woman like her. However, Nan Xun insisted. She had no choice but to apply a liberal amount of makeup on her face.
Her delicate eyebrows were turned thick. Heavy rouge hid the brightness of her big eyes, and her cheeks were too red from the blush applied. Her lips were also too aggressively red.
She had a hard time looking at her own reflection. The makeup made her look hideous.
Nan Xun was finally satisfied. He patted her shoulder reassuringly. “It’s just one day. I remember how stunning the real you are.”
Jun Huang pouted in resignation and looked away from the mirror. The maid widened her eyes when she entered the room. She ran away muffling her laugh.
“See, she got scared away,” Jun Huang said teasingly. “Rest assured, no one will recognize me or get any closer to me.”
Nan Xun played ignorant and led Jun Huang outside. The others were shocked to see her as well.
The mistress frowned when she saw how strange Jun Huang looked. It was inappropriate and hard on the eyes, but she couldn’t say anything because of who Jun Huang was. It must have been because of what happened with Gentleman Li, she thought. That’s why she’s unwilling to show her face in public.
“Look at her!” exclaimed the youngest young mistress, laughing and pointing at Jun Huang. “Why does she look like that?”
The third young mistress was still resentful of Jun Huang. She wasn’t going to let the opportunity to insult Jun Huang slip. “Ha, she must have realized how inappropriate her real appearance is for such a formal occasion. She’s whoring for attention.”
“Has your maid not been doing her job?” the first young mistress asked. Her tone was gentle, but there was an underlying taunt that Jun Huang could hear as clear as day.
Jun Huang looked at her sisters and smiled. “What happened last time taught me something. I hide my real face because I don’t want to be accused of stealing men from any of you again.” She raised an eyebrow. Her tone made it sound as if she was joking.
Those who understood what she was implying scowled. The third young mistress, especially, wanted nothing but to strangle Jun Huang, but she was stopped by the first young mistress’s glare. She froze and gritted her teeth at Jun Huang.