Nan Xun handed a tael of silver to the clerk. “We’d like to book two premium rooms.”
The clerk’s eyes lit up when he saw the silver, and his smile deepened. He took care of booking the rooms for them, thinking about how much bonus he’d receive at the end of the month. The thought filled him with joy.
The clerk led them upstairs. Their rooms were right next to each other. Once the clerk left, Nan Xun first checked over the room Jun Huang was going to stay in. Only after making sure it wasn’t compromised did he go to his.
They were told that lunch was ready. Jun Huang and Nan Xun were here to investigate, so they went to the first floor to eat. They didn’t wait long before the food was here.
Jun Huang’s attention was caught by one of the dishes on the table. Nan Xun frowned at her and asked, “What’s wrong?”
She looked at Nan Xun, then at the dish. In the end she started eating without saying anything. Nan Xun didn’t probe, but he took note of her reaction.
After Jun Huang had left for her room, Nan Xun pulled a server to the side. His sharp eyes and severe brows terrified the server. He gaped at Nan Xun fearfully, too afraid to say anything. It felt as if Nan Xun would be able to kill him with nothing but his cold stare.
Nan Xun realized that he had scared the server. He let him go and pointed at the leftover of the dish. “What is this dish? Where is it from?”
Nan Xun had reeled in his intimidating aura. The server visibly relaxed. He looked at the table and said proudly, “This is a specialty of our boss. You can only have it here. No other restaurant knows how to make it. The boss is – ”
Nan Xun knew he couldn’t get anything of value from the server’s blabbering mouth. He walked away. The server gave him an odd look, scratching his head with a puzzled expression. He was still in a state of confusion when he returned to the backyard.
Jun Hao brought out a plate from the kitchen – it was the same dish that had stunned Jun Huang. He noticed server looking up at the nest in a tree. He pursed his lips and yelled, “You’re diddling about again, you brat! Come serve the food. What are you staying outside for? And let me tell you, don’t think about taking those eggs. If I see you going after the eggs again, I’ll – I’ll tell big brother to not prepare your dinner.”
Jun Hao handed the dish to the server with the other hand on his waist. There was a scowl on his face.
The server pouted. When he first came to the inn, there were only two people working here. He was told that they were brothers. At the time, Jun Hao was a mild-mannered boy. It seemed obvious that he must be from a rich family. Once they got to know each other, however, Jun Hao had turned mischievous. He would even play tricks on the server, who was an honest worker.
“Alright, alright,” the server muttered as he went off to bring the dish to the customer. “You’re becoming a bully, Yin Er1. Don’t forget I’m the one who taught you how to get bird eggs from a tree. Now you’re reserving them all to yourself…”
Jun Hao laughed. When he turned around, Yin Yun was right behind him. He gulped awkwardly.
Overtime, Jun Hao had changed. He was a kid after all. It was natural for him to seek out fun. When he was a prince in the palace, he didn’t dare to indulge himself. He didn’t even have a friend. Now, in Eastern Wu, he had come to forget his identity as the prince of Western Que.
Yin Yun didn’t blame Jun Hao. He was worried that Jun Hao would developed a complex after losing his country and family. It was a relief that he was able to still smile.
Yin Yun’s endulgent, however, had caused Jun Hao to lose the composure a man of the royal family should possess. Sometimes, Yin Yun would agonize over how he should explain to Jun Huang when he saw her. Whenever he saw the bright smile on Jun Hao’s face, though, he couldn’t do anything to take that away.
“I’ve never scolded you, but you really should know to control yourself,” said Yin Yun.
Jun Hao pouted. “You’re no fun.”
He ran away, leaving Yin Yun on his own. Yin Yun sighed. This was giving him a headache.
When he was about to return to the kitchen, the server ran back in. After some hesitation, he told Yin Yun about the weird man he had encountered. Yin Yun sighed inwardly, but didn’t say much.
The dish was his specialty. Not a lot of people knew how to make it. He included it in the menu because he wanted Jun Huang to have it one day. Since then, however, people had only asked him about the dish because it was too delicious, and they would like to learn how to make it. Yin Yun had given up on using it as a way to send a message to Jun Huang.
“It’s fine. Go do your job.” Yin Yun waved the clerk away and returned to the kitchen.
Eastern Wu was chilly at night. Since the city was located in a desert, there was no natural barrier to block the chilling winds. Dust was brought into the air. The cold burrowed into one’s bones.
When it was time for dinner, Nan Xun went back to his room to put on something warmer. Jun Huang, meanwhile, leaned against the railing and looked down at the main hall.
Her eyes settled on two people in the main hall. Even though Jun Hao and Yin Yun had disguised themselves, Jun Huang was able to recognize them at first glance. She suddenly broke into tears, startling Nan Xun, who had just walked out of the door.
Yin Yun looked up. Jun Huang hurriedly pulled Nan Xun back into his room. Nan Xun didn’t know what was happening, but he didn’t ask.
It took some time for Jun Huang to calm down. She wiped away her tears and met Nan Xun’s questioning eyes. She took a deep breath. There was no need for her to hide this from him. “I saw my brother and Yin Yun. They were in disguise, but I recognized them.”
“Are you sure?”
Nan Xun was no less excited than Jun Huang was. He knew how much time and efforts Jun Huang had spent on looking for Jun Hao and Yin Yun. She fought so hard. Even illnesses could not keep her down.
Now the one who worked hard had received her reward. Nan Xun could tell, though, that Jun Huang was struggling. He thought back to how Jun Huang had ordered the House of Heavenly Fiends to stop searching. With a sigh, he took Jun Huang’s trembling hands. “What do you plan to do?”
Jun Huang looked up at him. After a long stretch of silence, she shook her head and pulled back, her eyes focusing on the floor. “I didn’t expect this to happen. I knew they were safe, but I thought they would be staying in Northern Qi. Why would they come to Eastern Wu? This is not a safe place. What’s going to happen if they are recognized? This meeting came too suddenly. I don’t know what I should do.”
“You don’t want to let them see you, do you?” Nan Xun asked gently.
Jun Huang smiled in response. The smile was so bitter it hit Nan Xun where he was most tender. “The poison in my body is going to take my life sooner rather than later,” she said slowly. “Like we’ve talked about before, the hope I can give them is imperfect, broken. It is a miracle to discover what you’ve lost. Who among us can stand losing something we’ve just recovered? It’s better that I let them be. Even from a distance, I can see the carefree smile on my brother’s face. He’s grown confident. That’s good. They deserve a peaceful life. I’ll take care of getting revenge. Years after, they’ll be able to forget about me. That’s as good an ending as I can wish for.”
Every word she uttered left a cut on Nan Xun’s heart. He wanted to comfort her, but he couldn’t do anything but to stay at her side and helped her get revenge. Words failed at time like this.
Even a sigh seemed cheap.
They stopped talking. Nan Xun went out to take a look. He only called for Jun Huang to come out after he made sure that Yin Yun and Jun Hao weren’t anywhere to be seen. Jun Huang couldn’t help trying to look for Jun Hao, but at the same time she was afraid. She was able to recognize Jun Hao, she believed that Jun Hao, who had always been close to her, would be able to recognize her readily as well. She must hide from them.
Jun Huang had lost her appetite. Meeting Jun Hao told her that she had to be quick. The longer she and Nan Xun stayed in Eastern Wu, the more dangerous it was for them. Jun Hao’s and Yin Yun’s presence further complicated the issue. She didn’t want to drag them down with her.
Jun Huang told Nan Xun about her concerns. They had gathered enough information. They decided to go to Water Cloud with the night as their cover.
Water Cloud was located under a casino. They would have to pass the casino, where people from all walks of life gathered, in order to reach their destination. They disguised themselves as gamblers.
The outside of the casino looked impressive. Water Cloud must have built it to serve as a front.
Inside, it was noisy. Many gamblers were in circles calling out their bets. Some had lost all their money, but refused to leave. Others were beat up for not being able to pay their debt. The staff at the casino would make a play at breaking up the fight, but they didn’t really care.
This seemed like the most typical casino. Jun Huang had never been to one, but she had heard stories.
When she and Nan Xun arrived, there was a table with an empty seat. Nan Xun gave Jun Huang a look, who gave him a nod in response. She followed him to the table. There were nine players at the table of ten, so only one of them could join in.
Jun Huang had never been to a casino, but she had played similar games with the servants when she was in the palace. She had always been lucky, and she had the brain to play well. She decided to play for them both.
1. Basically Yin Yun’s “Yin” plus the character for “two”. Not the most creative alias.