Nan Xun thought Jun Huang was feeling sorry for Shangguan Yue. “Don’t pity her. Someone with such a vicious heart doesn’t deserve your sympathy. She only has herself to blame for what happened.”
Jun Huang nodded. “Don’t worry. I feel no sympathy for her. I’m simply lamenting the unpredictability of fate.”
Nan Xun relaxed and let out a sigh. He didn’t want Jun Huang to see the cruel reality. For him, Jun Huang was the only ray of hope in the world. In her aloof eyes was a utopia the ancient scholars had written about.
Someone like her shouldn’t be subjected to human malice.
He pushed aside his thoughts. He didn’t want to talk to Jun Huang about the harsh truth of palace affairs. Oleg Cragfiend happened to arrive with a bowl of medicine, interrupting their conversation. Nan Xun sighed in relief.
Jun Huang took the bowl of medicine and finished it in one go. Oleg Cragfiend reached out to take her pulse. “You’re about recovered.”
After a pause, Jun Huang said, “I’ve been taking the medicine for some time, master, and I’ve recovered more and more memories. However, there are things that remain fuzzy to me. Why is that?”
“You need more potent medicine.” Oleg Cragfiend seemed to have anticipated the question. He didn’t sound at all surprised.
Jun Huang didn’t say anything. Nan Xun, on the other hand, frowned and questioned, “It’s said that all medicine is toxic to some degree. The more effective the medicine, the more toxic it is. Isn’t that going to be counterproductive?”
“I understand your concerns, but you have to trust me,” said Oleg Cragfiend. “I can eliminate the toxicity of the medicine. Besides, that’s what we must do given Jun Huang’s condition.”
Nan Xun frowned deeply. “What went wrong? Has the poison in her body not be cleansed properly?”
Oleg Cragfiend shook his head. “That’s not the case. The change of medicine is to stimulate Jun Huang’s memory. Do you know why there are things she cannot recall? She doesn’t want to remember. If we are to restore those memories, she needs more potent medicine.”
Nan Xun turned to Jun Huang. She was rubbing at her forehead to soothe herself. He knew she’d been getting headaches since she started taking the medicine. Oleg Cragfiend said it was a normal reaction.
“Is she going to get more headaches with the new medicine?” asked Nan Xun.
Oleg Cragfiend turned to Jun Huang and sighed. He understood Nan Xun’s reluctance. “I don’t want to lie to you. The new medicine will have stronger side effects. Her head is going to hurt more, but it will be tolerable.”
Nan Xun fell silent. It pained him to see Jun Huang suffer. She’d been losing sleep because of her headaches. Oleg Cragfiend wasn’t one for hyperbole. That meant the new medicine would make her feel worse…
On the other hand, Nan Xun didn’t want Jun Huang to live her life without her memory. He took a deep breath and pushed aside his concerns. For Jun Huang’s sake, it was better that he did nothing.
Oleg Cragfiend could tell that Nan Xun had made up his mind. He gave Nan Xun a pointed look, who told Jun Huang to go rest without missing a beat and made his way to Oleg Cragfiend’s temporary residence.
“Let’s talk about the new treatment,” Oleg Cragfiend said without preamble.
“Are there herbs that are difficult to acquire?”
“I believe it’s going to take too long to rely only on medicine,” said Oleg Cragfiend. “It’s better that we give her psychological stimuli as well.”
He hadn’t gone into the specifics, but Nan Xun immediately figured out what the poison master was suggesting. He widened his eyes, still reeling from what the old man had proposed. Oleg Cragfiend understood his concerns. He told him to take some time to consider.
Nan Xun returned to the back garden like a walking corpse. Not far from him was Jun Huang’s residence, but he didn’t close the distance. He couldn’t. He felt a sharp pain in his chest as soon as he thought about what he was going to do to Jun Huang.
“I’ve heard your discussion with the old master, Your Highness,” the lead shadowguard said as he emerged from the dark. “I agree with him. It’s said that the most effective way to cure a poison is to cancel its effect with another poison. Perhaps that’ll be enough to restore Miss Jun Huang’s memory.”
Nan Xun smiled wryly and lowered his eyes. “But why should she experience the heart-wrenching pain again? She’s been victimized too many times. She doesn’t deserve it. I don’t want to cut open her wound and make her hurt again.”
The shadowguard fell silent. He wasn’t sure what to say. Nan Xun sighed and looked up at the bright moon. His heart knew what he had to do, but his mind was filled with a tangled mess of thoughts.
“Send two teams to Eastern Wu. We’ll plan as we go.” Nan Xun acquiesced. Jun Huang had been without her memory for too long. It was time he got it over with.
The shadowguard knew Nan Xun was conflicted. Without a word, he vanished into the dark. Two groups of men departed from the manor and made their way to Eastern Wu.
The next few days, Jun Huang could feel the tension in the air, but she didn’t know what the cause was. Nan Xun seemed to be keeping secrets from her. When asked, though, he insisted that she’d been overthinking.
Jun Huang stopped asking. During her free time, she’d send for a performing troupe and watch a show in the back garden. Oleg Cragfiend and Nan Xun weren’t sure if her indifference was a good thing or a bad thing.
Today, Jun Huang had spent her day watching a play. It was satisfying, and it drained her enough that she quickly fell asleep at night, oblivious to the world.
In the study, Nan Xun and the others discussed how they were going to re-enact the attack on Western Que’s palace. They knew there was no room for mistakes. They had to do this right.
“What if something goes wrong?” Yin Yun was hesitant. He didn’t want to risk Jun Huang’s safety.
After a pause, Nan Xun said in a serious tone, “We’ve planned for everything. I won’t allow anything to go wrong. It’s a show. No one is getting hurt.”
“Aren’t you worried that...”
Nan Xun’s expression was tight. He forced himself to calm down. “We’ve got to this point. There’s no going back no matter how worried we are. Whatever happens, you mustn’t stop. If you do, our efforts will be all for nothing. Worse, Oleg Cragfiend has said Jun Huang’s defense mechanism may kick in if we don’t do this right. Then she’s never going to recover her memory.”
Yin Yun nodded without a word and took Jun Hao out for preparation. Nan Xun sat at the desk, his fingers trembling.
This was it. One misstep, and gone was her chance of recovery.
Jun Huang had thought she’d be able to sleep until the day broke since she’d been graced with a reprieve from her headache. It’d been a while since she had a good night's sleep.
“Ugh! Who are you? How did you get in?”
Clink! The sounds of blades clashing came from outside her room. Jun Huang had always been a light sleeper. The noises jerked her out of her sleep. She listened to the commotion, her heart pounding and her temples throbbing. Her back was covered in cold sweat.
Her face paled. It took some time for her to make sure that this was real. She wasn’t dreaming. The noises weren’t just in her head.
A maid rushed in. “Princess, you have to get up now. We must leave.”
Jun Huang widened her eyes and looked around for Nan Xun. Her face went even paler when she didn’t spot him. Her muscles grew taut when she saw the fire outside through the crack of the door. The fact that the maid had called her princess confused her. She passively let the maid drag her out of the room.
Nan Xun’s heart ached when he saw her expression from where he was hiding. He wanted to hold her, comfort her, but Oleg Cragfiend stopped him.
“Don’t.” Oleg Cragfiend shook his head.
Nan Xun felt a lump in his throat. Jun Huang had told him about her dreams of the destruction of her homeland. The nightmares had been plaguing her for half a month. And here they were, forcing her to relive her worst nightmare. The guilt was a heavy weight over Nan Xun’s conscience.
Oleg Cragfiend didn’t allow him the time to wallow. He dragged him to follow Jun Huang and the maid.
Jun Huang didn’t know where Nan Xun was. Listening to the killings and watching the blazing torches, she wanted nothing but to break out of the maid’s grip, but she didn’t have the strength to do that. She didn’t know what she’d see next. She had no choice but to follow the maid.
Through the winding hallway, they reached an extravagant building. Jun Huang’s pupils contracted as her gaze settled on the man standing in the main hall.
It was her brother, the fifth prince of Western Que.
The prince had hoped that the emperor of Eastern Wu would give him a bright future, but he faded into obscurity after the emperor’s failure. He had lost all his power.
That was when Nan Xun’s men found him. They took him to Northern Qi and promised him reward if he helped them put on the show.
The fortune practically fell into his lap. There was no reason for him to say no. He agreed to play his part.
Within the palace, the fifth prince laughed without restraint, leveling the couple on the throne with a venomous glare.
“Hahaha, you didn’t expect things to turn out this way, did you?”