Chapter 333: Sleight of Hands

Phoenix Ascending

Nan Xun came to Eastern Wu also to identify Eastern Wu’s weaknesses so that he could defeat them once and for all, fulfilling Jun Huang’s goal. However, he’d been putting that on hold.

There were too many things for him to do, none of which had seen any significant progress. Eastern Wu must have a weakness. It was just difficult to spot.

“I understand your concern, but remember, nothing, not even my personal matter, is more important to me than you are. Whatever happens, you have to tell me.”

“Take the man as an example, you could’ve just told me about him,” Nan Xun said quietly. “I can easily take care of a lecherous scum. There’s no need for you to get him out of the picture in such a roundabout way.”

Jun Huang was touched, but she didn’t let it show. After a pause, she said, “Why should you be concerned with something so trivial? I don’t like him. I can deal with him myself.”

Jun Huang’s faint smile wasn’t like her usual smile. Nan Xun wasn’t known for his attention to detail, but she wasn’t even trying to hide her emotions from him. He could easily see the glint in her eyes. His heart fluttered.

He knew Jun Huang could deal with her own problems, but he cared about her too much. He wanted nothing but to always be her support, to make it so she’d never have to do anything alone.

He didn’t voice his thoughts and instead stroked her hair gently.

“I hear the third young mistress has insulted you earlier,” he finally said, breaking the silence. “I don’t know how other people will react, but you don’t have to worry. If Gentleman Li harasses you again, just tell me.”

Jun Huang knew Nan Xun would get frustrated if she argued again, so she nodded.

Oleg Cragfiend soon developed the medicine. Nan Xun almost couldn’t believe how easy it was. He stood rooted to the spot and only came to his senses when his shadowguard called out for him. He immediately went to where Oleg Cragfiend had been staying.

Oleg Cragfiend put down his writing brush and handed Nan Xun the sheet of paper. Nan Xun took it and frowned. “Many of the ingredients can’t be found in Eastern Wu. It won’t be easy to gather all of them.”

“That’s why I give you the list now,” Oleg Cragfiend said bluntly. “These are what you need to restore her memory. Do with it what you will.”

Nan Xun fell silent. He didn’t want to disappoint Jun Huang. He beckoned his shadowguard over and had him gather the necessary herbs. No matter how arduous it’d be and how much land he’d have to cover, he must complete the mission.

The shadowguard memorized all the ingredients on the list and departed at night. Nan Xun had thought that he wouldn’t be back until after a few days, but he returned the next day at night. Nan Xun was surprised to see him.

“The emperor of Southern Mu delivered the ingredients,” said the shadowguard.

Nan Xun frowned. He didn’t want Nan Jihan to get close to Jun Huang again, but the man was doing a good thing, and Jun Huang couldn’t wait any longer. There was no reason for him to turn Nan Jihan’s generous offer away.

His hesitation was cut short when Oleg Cragfiend opened the door. The old master didn’t look surprised when he saw the herbs. “I sent a message to Nan Jihan as well. He’s an emperor after all. He has some power. It’d have taken more than a month for you to collect all the ingredients. We might as well seek help from those with greater influence.”

Nan Xun frowned but didn’t make his displease known. He knew it wouldn’t do anything good.

“However,” started Oleg Cragfiend.

“What?” Nan Xun asked, pushing aside his grievances.

“I hear Yin Yun said that the mistress is shrewder than her appearance suggests. It’s clear what she and her family have been trying to do by adding hallucinogen in the medicine they give Jun Huang. Everyday, they keep watch on Jun Huang to make sure she takes the medicine. It may be troublesome to swap out the medicine, but we must do that to avoid clashing effects.”

Oleg Cragfiend wasn’t trying to put Nan Xun down. He was simply raising the question they would have to face.

Nan Xun frowned in deep thought. He knew the poison master was right, but he didn’t have a ready solution.

Oleg Cragfiend sighed in understanding and shook his head. “That’ll require further consideration. Take some time to plan.”

Oleg Cragfiend walked away, giving Nan Xun his privacy. He thought for a long time. He’d need to take some risks to help Jun Huang recover.

Oleg Cragfiend soon delivered Nan Xun the recipe of the medicine. Nan Xun had made up his mind what he was going to do.

He sent for Yin Yun, who knew how much he cared about Jun Huang. “If you need anything from me, I’ll help. I’ll do anything to help the princess get her memory back.”

Nan Xun snorted and waved a hand in the air. “I don’t need you to do anything drastic. However, I won’t be able to prepare the medicine after going to the Grand Chancellor’s manor. I need you to do it here and deliver the medicine to the manor. The rest I’ll take care of.”

Yin Yun nodded without any arguments. Nan Xun soon returned to the manor and told Jun Huang about his plan. She nodded in understanding.

Yin Yun delivered the medicine to Nan Xun himself without being detected. Nan Xun poured it into a bowl that was identical to the bowl Jun Huang’s medicine usually came in and hid it near the door.

No sooner had they gotten everything prepared than someone knocked on the door. Jun Huang and Nan Xun exchanged a glance. He nodded and got the door.

“What are you doing here?” In came the mistress’s old caretaker. She frowned at Nan Xun disapprovingly.

Nan Xun smiled. “The young mistress was tired, and I happened to know a thing or two about giving a massage. I came to help release the tension in her muscles.”

The caretaker scowled harder. Jun Huang spoke up, “There’s no need for that. He’s telling the truth.”

“Please don’t blame this old servant for intervening, my lady,” the old woman said gravely. “Men and women have to keep a polite distance from each other. It’s inappropriate for him to stay in your room.”

Jun Huang frowned, annoyed. She wasn’t an unreasonable person, but it bothered her to hear the old caretaker talk about Nan Xun like he was something that would taint her simply by sharing a space with her.

She scoffed. “The housekeeper hired him because he’s strong enough to be a guard. Being a servant is beneath him. I’ve been thinking about making him my bodyguard. I’ll tell mother myself. You don’t have to be too concerned.”

The caretaker could tell Jun Huang would get mad if she kept pushing. She pursed her lips and had a servant bring the medicine into the room. “We’ll talk about that later. You should take the medicine first, my lady.”

Nan Xun took the bowl from the servant and frowned after taking a whiff. “The medicine is too bitter for the young mistress. Haven’t you prepared her some candied dates?”

The caretaker belatedly realized that she’d forgotten to do that. She sent the servant away to retrieve some and stayed with Jun Huang. Jun Huang glanced at Nan Xun and read the unspoken words in his eyes. She rose to her feet.

“Nanny, I got something I think would suit you yesterday. Why don’t you come have a look?” She walked to the other side of the room. The caretaker couldn’t resist her curiosity and followed after Jun Huang.

When no one was looking, Nan Xun quickly swapped the two bowls of medicine and placed the one he’d prepared on the table.

That was when the old caretaker turned around. Everything looked to be in order. There wasn’t any ripples over the surface of the medicine. She looked back at Jun Huang, oblivious to what Nan Xun had done.

Jun Huang took out a premium jade thumb ring, its color a stunning turquoise like the sky after rain. She handed it to the caretaker with a smile, who widened her eyes, stunned, unsure if she should accept the gift.

“You should take it, nanny. The color suits you. It’s a little too mature for me.” Jun Huang’s tone was earnest and convincing.

“Then I’ll accept it with gratitude.” The old caretaker had wanted the thumb ring the moment she laid eyes on it. She couldn’t turn Jun Huang down after Jun Huang made another offer. She interpreted that as Jun Huang asking for her to keep Nan Xun’s presence a secret. She complied without resisting.

The servant had returned with some candied dates. Jun Huang ate one after finishing the medicine. After making sure she’d taken the medicine, the old caretaker left with the servant.

Jun Huang’s smile dropped as soon as they were out of the door. That was close. Sweat broke out of her forehead. Her heart still pounded when she thought about what they had done.

Nan Xun wished there was an easier way to restore her memory, but there wasn’t. What he had to do next was to give Jun Huang a performance to jog her memory. Then he’d take her away from the manor. Things would be simpler after that.

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