Nan Xun patted her back comfortingly. He retrieved some clean clothes for Jun Huang and, after she got changed, took her to a dingy prison.
Jun Huang tightened her fists. The place reminded her of the water prison Qi Chen had put her in. The memory didn’t evoke fear in her heart, but anger.
They reached the fifth prince’s cell. He’d obviously been severely punished. His clothes were tattered, and his body was covered in deep, ugly gashes
Jun Huang looked at him like he was an insect to be squashed. Her superior grace was out of place in the filthy underground cell.
The fifth prince’s eyes lit up when he saw Jun Huang. Despite his pain, he crawled toward Jun Huang. The iron chains on his limbs prevented him from getting closer than three steps away from her.
“I’m your fifth brother, Jun Huang,” he begged. “Please spare me. Let me live.”
Jun Huang scoffed. What a joke the man was.
It was clear that Jun Huang wasn’t going to forgive him. The fifth prince realized that he was going to die. The hope in his eyes died down, leaving only a burning hatred for his sister.
He stared at her and spouted off insults about their father and mother, his words harsh and his expression malicious.
Trembling with anger, Jun Huang grabbed Nan Xun’s sword on an impulse and crippled the fifth prince with a slash. The prince’s scream rang and echoed in the prison, croaked and hoarse like a howl from hell.
Jun Huang didn’t kill him. He’d betrayed his family, but there was a line she couldn’t cross. The fifth prince deserved to die, but he was her brother. She dropped the sword and looked away, her breaths shallow.
After a long pause, Jun Huang walked out of the prison. Nan Xun knew what she was thinking. He motioned at his men to let the fifth prince go, but without giving the prince anything to sustain him. The crippled man had to rely entirely on himself.
The lead shadowguard was worried. Once Jun Huang was out of earshot, he asked, “Are you sure you’re going to let the foul man live, Your Highness? His existence is a threat. What if - ”
Nan Xun sighed. “Jun Huang wanted to spare him. I’m in no place to take the decision away from her. I just want her to be happy.”
“So we’re not going to do anything?”
“Have some men keep an eye on him,” Nan Xun said in a cold, chilling voice. “If he does anything suspicious, kill him. If he doesn’t, let him live painfully, unable to seek the mercy of death. He has many years to think long and hard about his mistakes.”
That alleviated the lead shadowguard’s concern. He went off to pass down the order.
When Nan Xun walked out of the prison, Jun Huang was standing right outside, looking up at the sky with a lost expression.
She turned around when she heard his footsteps.
“Do you think I’m too cruel?” she asked.
Nan Xun shook his head and caught her cold, trembling fingers.
“Men like him deserve to die,” he whispered. “You’ve shown him enough mercy. You’re not cruel.”
“Don’t think too much,” he said gently. “That’s going to take a toll on you. You’ve just recovered your memory. You should rest. Let’s go home. We’ll talk tomorrow, alright?”
Jun Huang looked down at the ground and nodded, making a faint sound of assent. She returned to her bedroom with Nan Xun.
Too many things had happened tonight. Sleep didn’t come to her easily. Nan Xun held her close and talked to her, trying to distract her from her previous interaction with the fifth prince.
Early the next morning, Yin Yun and Jun Hao heard about Jun Huang’s recovery. They’d been staying in an inn. Jun Hao wanted to visit Jun Huang immediately, but Yin Yun stopped him.
“They had to deal with the fifth prince yesterday,” said Yin Yun. “Too many things have happened. The princess must still be resting. We shouldn’t bother her.”
Jun Hao pouted at Yin Yun. Subjected to his pitying look, Yin Yun sighed in resignation. He was helpless against Jun Hao’s silent plea. “Alright, we’ll go to Prince Nan Manor first. If the princess is still asleep, we’ll wait for her to wake up. Deal?”
“Deal!” Jun Hao nodded earnestly, his mood taking an immediate upturn. Yin Yun sighed again. After the two of them had a quick breakfast, they made their way to Nan Xun’s manor.
As expected, Jun Huang had only fallen asleep when the day broke and hadn’t woken up yet. Nan Xun led them to the back garden, telling them to wait.
Jun Hao got agitated after some time. He dragged Yin Yun toward Jun Huang’s residence. She happened to have woken up then. Jun Hao eyes lit up as he rushed inside.
“You’re finally awake, sister!” Jun Hao threw himself into Jun Huang’s arms, pouting.
With all her memory back, Jun Huang couldn’t help tearing up when she saw her little brother. Jun Hao burst into tears and started bawling. The two of them held each other tightly as they cried.
Nan Xun scowled and shot Yin Yun a pointed look. Feeling the coldness radiating from him, Yin Yun hurriedly picked Jun Hao up from Jun Huang’s arms, muttering reassuringly, “She’s still recovering. Intense emotions may harm her.”
Jun Huang had stopped crying. She cleared her throat. Nan Xun wiped her face with a handkerchief and sent for Oleg Cragfiend to check on her.
“She’s fine, but she needs rest. Don’t let her work herself to the ground like she’s done before.” With that, Oleg Cragfiend packed up and walked out of the room.
Nan Xun sat down next to Jun Huang and took her hands like it was the most natural thing in the world. “You’ve recovered. That’s good. The only thing left to do is to find a reason to destroy Eastern Wu, avenging Western Que. That’ll require some planning. Do you have any ideas?”
Jun Huang thought for a moment. “What happened to the emperor of Eastern Wu?”
“He’s no longer in power after I spread the news that he isn’t of the royal blood,” said Nan Xun. “However, the royal clan is keeping that a secret. He’s alive and being kept captive in the palace.”
Jun Huang nodded and thought for a moment with her eyes downcast. “I have some ideas. I’ll seek the emperor out after Eastern Wu is destroyed and let him know all his work has been for nothing. I’ll destroy his hope.”
“People like him deserves the deepest despair.”
“I’ll do everything I can to help you,” Nan Xun said seriously. “No matter what happens, you have my support.”
Jun Huang smiled and nodded.
Jun Hao contemplated what they had said. He’d been young when Western Que was destroyed, but he knew what had happened. He remembered everything clearly. Some part of him was already mature enough to show his enemy no mercy.
“We can’t just let him off the hook, sister,” Jun Hao said coolly. “He deserves much worse for what he’s done.”
Jun Huang looked up at Jun Hao and realized that the little boy who used to follow her around had grown up. She nodded and chuckled. “I know what you meant, but we don’t have to worry about that.”
She turned to Nan Xun.
Nan Xun cleared his throat and scratched his nose. “Don’t worry. I’ve planted my people by the emperor’s side. His life is going to be a living hell.”
That made Jun Hao feel a little better. His hatred for the emperor burned hot whenever he thought about what the man had done to Jun Huang. What was more, he’d been forced to be apart with his sister. He wanted to kill the man himself.
There was nothing he could do but to ask Nan Xun to assign more people to torment the emperor. Only the man’s suffering could quell Jun Hao’s hatred.
Jun Huang sighed at Jun Hao’s determined expression. She had been keeping her distance from Jun Hao because she didn’t want to drag him into her revenge. She could shoulder the burden herself. Jun Hao was too young to get involved.
She’d forgotten, however, that Jun Hao wasn’t an oblivious boy. His hatred wasn’t any lesser than Jun Huang’s, and it’d grown deeper over time. Jun Huang simply hadn’t noticed.
After some hesitation, Jun Huang spoke up, “Jun Hao, you must remember not to let your hatred consume you. Understand?”
Jun Hao blinked, a little puzzled, but he’d always listened to Jun Huang. He nodded.
Jun Huang relaxed. She yawned, feeling a little sleepy. Nan Xun told Jun Hao and Yin Yun to leave first.
Jun Hao insisted on staying. Nan Xun had no choice but to have a room cleaned for Jun Hao and Yin Yun.
“Yin Yun, give me some time alone.” Past the back garden, Jun Hao came to a stop and turned to Yin Yun.
As a guard, Yin Yun was in no place to disobey the prince. The manor should be safe enough. He nodded and left.
Once he was far enough away, Jun Hao let out a relieved sigh and sat down next to the lotus pond, staring blankly at the koi fish. What had happened last night felt too real. He was still reeling from the fear.
His face was pale and his body thin. The servants spotted him when they passed by. Jun Hao was at an age when children were most endearing. The servants stopped by to talk to him.