Phoenix Ascending

 Chapter 317 - Willful Promise

 Chapter 317: Willful Promise

“Have you heard anything suspicious?” a man asked from outside the door. “Has the lady left the room?”

“She hasn’t,” answered the maid, befuddled. “What’s going on? Did something happen?”

The man briefly described the situation and brought a group of men to the door, seemingly intending to enter and search around.

Jun Huang felt a headache brewing. She knew Nan Xun and Qi Yun had hidden themselves well, but she didn’t dare to relax her guard. She took a deep breath and rose to her feet, calling out through the door, “What’s the commotion about? Is something the matter?”

She could see the silhouette of the men outside. Her icy gaze fixed on them and her tone turned steely. “Shouldn’t you notify me before barging in?”

The men were surprised. They knew there was a young mistress living in this building, but they hadn’t been allowed near the area as mere guards. They heard she was beautiful and polite. Her assertive side was unexpected.

“They’re just guards, my lady. They rushed in to eliminate the threat before it could scare you.” The maid had been with Jun Huang for a few days. She knew Jun Huang’s true nature. She didn’t want Jun Huang to take her anger out on her.

Jun Huang knew the mistress must have told them to check her place first should anything happen, but she wasn’t going to let them get what they wanted. She scoffed. “No one’s here. Are you not going to believe my words?”

“Of course we believe you, my lady,” a servant quickly said, worried that Jun Huang would make a scene. “I’m sure no one would have come close to your room. We’ll take our leave.”

The maid nodded and led the guards away. At the door, she shook her head and added, “The intruders are unlikely to be here. We’ve been keeping watch outside her room. No one has entered, and she hasn’t left even once. Perhaps the intruders have fled.”

The leading guard nodded, wiping sweat from his forehead. “You’re right. However, the mistress has ordered us to keep her safe. That’s the only reason why we’ve come. It may be unwise for us to leave now.”

“Still, you don’t know her temper. She’s not as meek as we thought she was. Although she hasn’t fully recovered, she’s clever. It’s better we avoid offending her. Maybe one day that’ll end up benefiting us. Offending her may get us killed.”

The maid’s expression was grave. The guard knew the risks involved as well. He nodded and led his people away.

The maid was still a little concerned. Jun Huang’s place in the manor was unclear, but she knew nothing should happen to her. Otherwise, the maid’s head would roll.

After some deliberation, she decided to check on Jun Huang.

She knocked. Jun Huang got the door with expression so steely it intimidated the maid. The maid looked around and found nothing out of the ordinary. She smiled awkwardly before backing away.

Jun Huang could tell what the maid was thinking. She narrowed her eyes at the door for a long time. When she turned back, Nan Xun and Yin Yun had silently re-entered her room.

Without sparing even a glance at Yin Yun, Nan Xun walked up to Jun Huang. She knew she should put some distance between them, but her instinct told her otherwise. Staying close to the man seemed like an ingrained habit.

She looked at Nan Xun calmly. Nan Xun felt as if he was stabbed in the heart. She’d never looked at him so coldly ever since they confessed their feelings for each other.

She looked at him like he was a stranger. It worried and pained him.

“You… are you alright?” he finally managed to say.

Jun Huang frowned. What did he mean by that? She nodded and answered in a polite but aloof tone, “I’m fine. Thank you for your concern. May I ask who you are?”

Nan Xun’s pupils contracted. He took a step forward and stared at Jun Huang. “You don’t know who I am?!”

Jun Huang didn’t answer. She had a feeling she was close to the man, but she didn’t know how close. She was treading on thin ice. She must watch everything she said now.

She smiled slightly at Nan Xun and said nonchalantly, “I was sick and lost my memory. I hope you’ll forgive me for that.”

“Let me tell you who I am, Jun Huang,” Nan Xun said with great conviction, his eyes blazing. “I don’t care if you’ve forgotten about our past, but remember this: I’m your husband, and you’re my wife. Although I didn’t get to hold a grand ceremony for you, we did get married with many as witnesses. You can’t just cut me off because you don’t remember me.”

Jun Huang looked at him, trying to discern if he was telling the truth. The pain and love in his eyes made her heart skip.

She was surprised by his statement, but staying in his proximity seemed like the most natural thing in the world. In fact, she trusted him. She trusted that he would never hurt her, but she didn’t know why.

“I’m Nan Xun from Northern Qi. I’m the man you’re going to spend your life with. Don’t forget that again.” Nan Xun stared at Jun Huang with his brows closely knitted, unwilling to miss any changes in her expression.

Jun Huang met his eyes squarely. Nan Xun’s willful remark made her want to laugh, and she did. She considered him for some time before nodding. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Princess, we don’t know if he’s telling the truth,” said Yin Yun. “How can you trust him so easily? What if he has malintent…”

“That’s my line,” Nan Xun said with steel and hidden killing intent in his voice, his gaze hardening as it settled on Yin Yun. “Who are you? Why are you here? What are you trying to do?”

Jun Huang sighed inwardly when the two men got at it again. She pulled at Nan Xun’s sleeve and stepped between them. “He’s Yin Yun from Western Que. He’s been guarding my brother.”

Nan Xun had heard of him. The last time he saw the man, it was a fleeting glance, and Yin Yun was in disguise. That was why he hadn’t recognized the guard. He finally pushed aside his biases and hostility for Yin Yun after Jun Huang’s introduction.

“It’s inappropriate for a guard to share a room with your master. You know my relationship with your princess now. You aren’t needed here. An added person will only make us a bigger target. You should leave. I’ll keep her safe.” Nan Xun made the order like he was the master here. Jun Huang widened her eyes slightly in surprise.

Yin Yun glanced at her, taking her silence as an agreement. After their brief exchange of blows, he knew Nan Xun was telling the truth when he said he could protect Jun Huang. Moreover, the graceful man didn’t seem like someone who would tell a lie like that.

Yin Yun left without a word.

With another person as buffer, Jun Huang could still maintain her composure. Now that she was alone in the room with Nan Xun, she started to get nervous. She couldn’t stay calm when Nan Xun looked at her with such adoration in his eyes…

She struggled to come up with something to do. She sighed and sat on the divan, picking up a book to read and forcing herself to ignore Nan Xun.

Nan Xun had been keeping an eye on her. He knew her enough to understand every little gesture of hers. Her unease was telling.

He walked up to her. Jun Huang looked up at him and tried to stay calm, but her heart pounded violently when he knelt down before her.

“Tell me what happened, Jun Huang. Are you telling the truth? You’ve forgotten me? Or are you distancing yourself from me for reasons out of your control?”

Nan Xun didn’t notice how unsteady his voice was. His throat felt tight as he held onto Jun Huang’s cool hands. He worried that she’d vanish the moment he let go.

Jun Huang frowned. She’d dropped the book when Nan Xun took her hands, but she didn’t care how it’d become dirtied when she saw his red eyes. It made her heart ache.

Without thinking, she reached out to touch his eyelids, her cool fingers gentle. Nan Xun stared at her without looking away even once.

“I didn’t lie to you,” Jun Huang said slowly and calmly, but something about her tone broke his heart. “I don’t remember my past, and, – it may be hard to believe – I don’t remember you.”

“I woke up in this room. Everyone told me I was the Grand Chancellor’s daughter. I believed them at first. They said my memory loss is due to the accident where I fell into the pond. If Yin Yun hadn’t showed up, I may still be under the spell of the mistress’s caring words.”

“He told me about myself. I started getting suspicious. There are too many signs… They later put hallucinogen in medicine for me to take. That’s telling enough. Unfortunately, I’m trapped in this manor. I don’t know what’s going on outside. I don’t remember who I am. There’s so little I can do…”

Jun Huang explained what had happened calmly, her lips curved into a faint smile, but it made Nan Xun’s heart ache even more. He couldn’t help but pull her into his arms.

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