t
Jun Huang wouldn't be able to answer him, of course. Nan Xun laughed bitterly.

Hearing a faint thud, he turned to see a monkey perching on the windowsill.

Nan Xun reached out for the monkey. Who knew what the wild thing would do? Before he could catch it, the monkey jumped in and took a plant from the medicinal bath. Nan Xun shot to his feet and tried to grab it.

With intelligence behind its eyes, the monkey gave Nan Xun a look and turned to leave.

“Stop it, you d.a.m.n animal!” exclaimed Nan Xun. “Do you know what you've stolen?”

The monkey made some unintelligible chatter and ran away. The medicinal bath was prescribed by Oleg Cragfiend. Every herb had its part. Nan Xun jumped out of the window and chase after the monkey.

The monkey hadn't expected Nan Xun to be so stubborn. It stumbled and almost fell from a branch. But then it caught a vine and swung away. Nan Xun had to use light body technique to catch up with it.

Not long after Nan Xun left, Jun Huang's eyelashes fluttered.

Surrounded by wisps of steam rising from the bath, she opened her eyes.

She blinked. It took some time for her to figure out where she was. Her coma had left her body stiff and weak. She struggled to her feet.

Droplets of water slid down her fair skin and dripped from her fingers. They landed in the tub of medicinal solution with a faint sound.

Her eyes turned misty in the steam. She looked around before stepping out of the tub. There was a white silk robe on the rack nearby. She put it on and walked out of the door with her hair down.

There was no one around. She frowned. Confusion flashed through her beautiful face. She made her way down the stairs and saw how br.i.m.m.i.n.g with life the valley was.

She recognized the place. Oleg Cragfiend used to live here, and she'd stayed here for some time as well. The cabin, though, was new. The behemoth tree was still as she'd remembered. There was a creek next to it. That was her favorite spot whenever she was missing home.

Outside the cabin, there was a small parterre filled with orchids. Their fragrance enveloped her like a comforting blanket. Standing here, she felt as if she was standing at the center of the world. Everything around her was of the nature. They burned themselves into her memory.

To think a world such as this could exist. This must be the ideal, quiet life the ancient people had pursued.

She knelt down in the parterre and looked at the beautiful flowers. Smiling, she extended a hand. A b.u.t.terfly quietly perched on her fingertip. She chuckled. “Do you know where the man who has been taking care of me is? Why isn't he around?”

The b.u.t.terfly couldn't answer her. It took flight once her breaths. .h.i.t it. Then many more b.u.t.terflies emerged and circled around her.

Meanwhile, Nan Xun had finally caught up with the monkey and took the herb back. He wasn't going to hurt an innocent animal. He let it go and made his way back.


He returned to find the door ajar. His heart skipped a beat. His eyes widened. There was a mix of disbelief, trepidation, and delight in his gaze.

Taking a deep breath, he entered the door. There was no one in the bath, and the robe on the rack was gone. In a moment of ecstasy, he dropped the herb to the floor and bolted outside.

There was a large group of b.u.t.terflies in the parterre he'd set up. He slowly came to a halt and looked into the distance.

Jun Huang stood among the flowers, surrounded by colorful b.u.t.terflies.

It felt as if he was seeing her for the first time.

Noticing his gaze, she turned around and gave him a smile stunning enough to topple a nation. She'd always been beautiful. His heart pounded against his ribcage as he looked at her fluttering robe, her dancing hair, and her tender eyes.

Jun Huang was still smiling. Nan Xun could no longer control himself. He ran to her at full speed, scaring the b.u.t.terflies away, and held Jun Huang tight, his body trembling uncontrollably.

Jun Huang buried her face into his chest, listening to his thundering heartbeats. Her smile deepened and her eyes crinkled. “Where did you go?”

Nan Xun told her about the monkey.

“Well,” she said. “I guess it's thanks to it that I'm awake now.”

“Seems to be the case.” Nan Xun laughed, his eyes s.h.i.+ning with an adoring glint. She lowered her head and cleared her throat, bashfully averting her gaze. “I don't remember the cabin and the parterre.”

“I built them for you,” said Nan Xun. “Would you like to live here with me?”

Jun Huang's eyebrows jumped up in surprise. “You're giving up your power and career for me?”

Nan Xun chuckled resignedly and updated her on the recent development. She frowned.

“Don't you regret giving up your old life?”

Nan Xun tightened his hand around hers and said seriously, “You are the only one I need in my life. Greed begets more greed. It's a blessing that I can have you. Why would I ask for more?”

Jun Huang's eyes stung. She lay her head against Nan Xun's chest. They stayed like that for a long time until Jun Huang remembered Jun Hao and Oelg Cragfiend. She asked after them.

Nan Xun pursed his lips. He didn't want to talk about other people at this tender moment, but he couldn't say no to Jun Huang when she looked at him like that. He sighed and took her to Jun Hao.

They followed a path and soon reached where Oleg Cragfiend and Jun Hao were living. When Jun Huang saw her brother, he was kneeling on the ground trying to identify the different herbs. He couldn't for his life remembered what his master had taught him yesterday. He struggled to put a name to the plant in his hand.

“Is this ginseng?” muttered Jun Hao as he scratched his head. “Doesn't seem like it.”

Jun Huang took the plant from him and murmured, “This is dong quai. Its effect is mild and its taste spicy. It can replenish blood and promote circulation.”

For a moment, Jun Hao didn't react. Then he threw himself into her arms and bawled, warm tears leaving stains on Jun Huang's collars. Jun Huang's heart ached, but she managed to blink her tears away. She wanted to be strong for him.

“Hey, I'm fine now,” Jun Huang said gently, ruffling Jun Hao's hair. “It's all in the past.”

Jealous, Nan Xun plucked Jun Hao out of Jun Huang's arms and stepped between them. “You're a big boy,” he said with a dark look. “You should keep your distance from women.”

Jun Huang sighed in exasperation. Jun Hao made a face at Nan Xun and went past him to catch Jun Huang's arm. With an eyebrow raised, he recounted how Nan Xun had treated him while she was unconscious.

That was what Oleg Cragfiend saw when he returned. He smiled with fond resignation and dropped his things. “What do you plan to do next?”

Nan Xun turned to Jun Huang, who gave him a gentle smile. They both laughed.

“I want to lead a peaceful life with her.”

Jun Huang nodded. “There's nothing wrong with that. I'd like to be here with him til death do us part. We've missed so much time. I just want to grow old with him, witnessing the turn of the seasons, letting snow grey our hair. I cannot ask for more.”

“Others dream of a prosperous world. I dream of a beautiful city, within which is one man. A man I want to spend my life with.”

Jun Huang's face softened. Every minute detail about her expression was a love confession to Nan Xun.

Jun Hao glanced at Nan Xun's reddened eyes and muttered a complaint that Jun Huang and Nan Xun always forgot about him. He ran off to find Yin Yun.

The adults laughed, finally free of care.

Qi Yun stood under a pavilion, looking into the distance. The ground was covered in peach blossoms. With a gentle look on his face, he watched his little boys running around in the garden.

The empress came to him with a plate of pastries. She put the plate on the table and stopped at Qi Yun's side. Her expression was unbearably soft as she watched their children having fun.

Qi Yun often checked on Nan Xun and Jun Huang after Nan Xun took her away. He was genuinely happy for Nan Xun when he heard that Jun Huang had woken up.

Then he heard that Jun Huang had given birth to an intelligent and adorable daughter. That day, all the flowers in the valley bloomed, the fragrance reaching ten miles away.

Not long after, the couple had a son. The smart little boy was starting to learn how to walk, and he loved following his sister, babbling nonsensical things. The four of them were a loving family.

“What are you thinking, Your Majesty?” asked the empress.

Qi Yun turned to her and met her gentle eyes. He sighed faintly and smiled. “I'm thinking about the prosperous world, about the wars and chaos in the past. Who among us can go down in history as a hero? And who will dominate the history books? But then I realize I'll be pleased with simply spending a life with you, my empress.”

After that, no one ever heard of a woman chosen by fate. Those who knew her never brought her up. Gradually, she was forgotten by the world.

The one pa.s.sage about her in history went like this: The magnificent scenery seemed to have lost their colors when she emerged. Having met her was the greatest miracle in his life.

The End





CHAPTER DISCUSSION