Ji Bo planned to attack a couple days later. Nan Xun and the officers took the time to regroup their soldiers.
Without giving Eastern Wu any time to recuperate, Nan Xun charged straight into Eastern Wu territory, vanquishing the enemies with such ferocity that they grew timid. The emperor of Eastern Wu panicked when he received the report.
The third prince scoffed inwardly at the scared emperor, but he maintained a polite smile. He didn’t want Eastern Wu to fall. “Royal Father, we have to stop Northern Qi’s advance. At the same time, we should send assassins to kill Nan Xun at the border.”
The emperor turned to the third prince, hesitant. The other officials echoed the prince’s sentiment, expressing their support for the plan proposed.
“Royal Father doesn’t have to worry,” the third prince said, glancing at the first prince. He was going to show everyone what he’d got. “This son will take care of it.”
The emperor conceded in the end. Although he wasn’t a particularly clever man, he was no coward. The enemies were right at their doorstep. He couldn’t stand by and do anything.
The third prince quickly arranged for the assassination. However, he didn’t know that the House of Heavenly Fiends had been watching him and soon delivered the information to Nan Xun.
Nan Xun huffed. “I didn’t think an emperor would resort to such measures. How laughable.”
Ji Bo had gotten the information as well. He sat down next to Nan Xun and glanced at the letters on the table. “Your Highness must be on your guard. You know better than anyone the value of caution.”
“Besides, you should keep the safety of your soldiers in mind and don’t let hubris get the better of you.” Ji Bo’s tone was earnest.
Nan Xun nodded. “Your advice is noted. I won’t get reckless.”
With that, Nan Xun slowed down his pace and grew more cautious. However, the more hot-headed soldiers within the troops considered that a sign of Nan Xun’s fear for Eastern Wu.
When the criticism reached Nan Xun’s ears, Eastern Wu launched an attack. It wasn’t the right time for Nan Xun to deal with dissenting voices in the army. He pushed the issue aside and led the troops to the frontline to eliminate their enemies. Their general fled while he could and returned to the imperial city for help.
The emperor was intimidated by Nan Xun’s seemingly unstoppable advances. The odds of them winning seemed slim. He slumped on the chair drenched in sweat. The room was oppressively silent.
He was reminded of the old general who’d resigned months ago. He rose to his feet and asked, “Are any of you willing to persuade the old general to return?”
Everyone knew who the emperor was referring to. The old general was a heroic figure. He’d resigned because of his disapproval of Eastern Wu’s destructive attack against Western Que. He didn’t agree with his the emperor’s ambition to conquer the world, believing that peace was only possible with different nations keeping each other at bay.
It wouldn’t be an easy task. The general was well-known for being stubborn and too prideful to listen to others.
“This son volunteers,” the third prince took a step forward and said after a deep breath.
Everyone was astounded, but they kept their thoughts to themselves. The first prince was the only exception. He’d always been at odds with his brother and wasn’t going to let the opportunity to mock him go.“Third brother should think about what you can and can’t do even though you’re eager to prove yourself. It’s going to make you look bad if you fail to persuade the general.”
The third prince narrowed his eyes and said, “Don’t worry, big brother. I will get him to leave retirement no matter what.”
The emperor knew about the tension between the two princes. He wasn’t in the mood to listen to their petty argument. He rubbed at his forehead and tasked the third prince to seek out the general.
The third prince wasn’t entirely sure if he’d made the right decision. He knew what kind of a man the old general was. He could only get prepared and try his best to convince the old man.
He didn’t immediately take actions after locating the old general. As a member of the royal family, he knew how impatience could lead to disaster.
He visited the small village the old general currently resided in. The residents were pure-hearted, and the village was a rare utopia within Eastern Wu. However, due to its remoteness, the living condition was cruder. There was a stark contrast between the place and the imperial city.
News traveled fast in a small community. Soon, many had heard about the prince’s arrival. When he spread the information that he’d come for the old general, the villagers didn’t let him take a step into the village.
The third prince was in no rush. He sat under a tree and waited. He knew from listening in on the locals’ conversations that the general had helped the village greatly and earned their respect.
Soon, the general showed up. He was old, but still hale and hearty. Brute force alone wasn’t going to win a war. The army needed a leader who had an eye for the big picture and could keep everyone safe, who was trusted among the soldiers. The old general was the perfect candidate.
“It’s been a while, general. How have you been?” The third prince approached the general and greeted him with deference.
The general scoffed. “Why is Your Highness here?”
“Eastern Wu is at war with Northern Qi, but we lack a strong leader. People are suffering and lives are lost. If the general refuses to help, Eastern Wu will fall. I know you questioned His Majesty’s beliefs, and that you’re sick of fighting. However, we don’t have a choice. You know better than anyone how cruel and violent Northern Qi is. We’ve signed a treaty, but they discarded it. Nan Xun has led his troops to attack our border cities. We have to...” The third prince stopped himself. He’d said what he needed to say. He believed the general would come to the conclusion himself.
The village was far from the imperial city. Even the most widely talked about issues wouldn’t have spread here. The general wouldn’t know who it was that broke the treaty. He had to accept his duty with so many people as witnesses.
As the prince predicted, the general believed that Northern Qi was the one who instigated the war. He quickly got prepared and made his way to the border. The third prince put him in charge of the battles at the border and reported back to the emperor for him.
The general’s return rekindled hope in the soldiers. They sighed in relief, regaining their will to fight with the general as their backbone.
Nan Xun got wind of the old general’s return. He’d be an obstacles they had to face.
Nan Xun wasn’t as experienced as the old general, but he was just as capable. He was brave but not reckless. The old general was merely another enemy he had to deal with.
Nan Xun wasn’t arrogant. He simply had confidence in his men. They stuck to their original plan and attacked Eastern Wu’s border every once in a while, keeping them on edge. Then they launched an attack when their enemies had lost their calm.
“General, the old Eastern Wu general has arrived at the border. Our troops were attacking at the time. The Eastern Wu defense army had been close to falling apart, but then they suddenly recovered their morale and stopped us from advancing.” The second in command respectively briefed Nan Xun on what was happening, his brows furrowed in concern.
Then, a messenger arrived. “General, Eastern Wu has launched an attack. The formation they use is something we’ve never seen before. Due to a reckless mistake, five thousand soldiers have died.”
Nan Xun shot to his feet and hit the desk hard, scaring his men. He narrowed his eyes at his second in command and the messenger and said coldly, “They’re being aggressive because they’ve lost too many people and their morale is low. It’s only natural that they’ll want to regain their confidence through a quick victory. However, we’re not going to let them get what they want. You two, go to the border and summon our troops back.”
“General, wouldn’t that - ”
“After that, immediately surround their army from both sides. Even if we can’t capture the general, we must kill all their vanguards. Don’t show any mercy.” Nan Xun’s expression was dark, and his voice steely.
The second in command hesitated before asking, “How do you know they’ll fall for that, general? What if they retreat after we do so?”
“They won’t. They will chase after our army. They aren’t going to give up so easily after getting a taste of victory. Even the old general won’t be able to stop their vanguards from charging in the heat of the moment. Go make the arrangement. We’ve lost five thousand. We have to at least kill all three thousand of their vanguards.”
The second in command finally realized what the general was trying to do. He rushed outside without delay. Nan Xun sat down on a hide-covered chair, his gaze deep and clouded.