With a twist of his torso, Nan Xun jumped onto horseback and stabbed at the old general with his spear. The old general leaned backward to dodge the attack and slashed at Nan Xun’s legs with his scimitar. Nan Xun leapt into the air and stepped on the blade, knocking it away. He then landed on his horse and pulled at the reign to halt the horse.
“A word, general,” Nan Xun said in a deliberate pace, his tone polite.
The general didn’t immediately respond. After a long pause, he finally nodded.
The two armies watched their respective commanders leave with their mouths agape. Noticing that some Eastern Wu soldiers were about to follow after the two generals, Ji Bo scoffed and ordered the Northern Qi soldiers to intercept them. The two armies clashed. Both suffered a good amount of casualties.
Nan Xun and the general got off their horses near the river. Nan Xun made the same pitch again, bluntly urging the general to change sides.
The old general was hesitant. He wanted to follow a wise leader, but his family was still in Eastern Wu. He shook his head. “It is fate that we’re on different sides. There’s nothing we can do to change that.”
There’s something we’re missing, Nan Xun thought. The old general had been swayed, but still he turned his offer down. Nan Xun was disappointed. Had he misjudged the general?
“If so, I have no reason to talk to you.” Nan Xun mounted his horse and looked down at the general without a word. He rode away. The general didn’t stop him.
Jun Huang soon heard about what had happened. Like Nan Xun, she had a feeling they were missing something. Whatever it was, she’d need to ask the House of Heavenly Fiends to investigate.
She requested for the organization’s forces in Eastern Wu to look into the old general again. If they could find out what was stopping the general, they could help resolve the issues and prompt the general to surrender.
While Qi Yun delivered rewards to the border to celebrate Nan Xun’s victory, Eastern Wu had turned on the general. Although the general had won a few battles, he suffered more losses. Apart from the fact that the general hadn’t fought for some time, the bigger problem was the incompetent soldiers Eastern Wu had recruited recently to replenish its force. By contrast, Northern Qi’s soldiers had all trained under Nan Xun day and night before they took to battle.
News about the general’s losses reached Eastern Wu’s emperor’s ears and made him angry. He believed that the old general was merely humoring him. He captured the general’s family, intending to use them as leverage against the general.
The House of Heavenly Fiends soon delivered the information to Jun Huang. She believed this was their chance. She ordered to have the general’s family rescued and kept safe in their operation base. Then she explained everything to Nan Xun.
Realization dawned on Nan Xun. He knew now why the general had refused to submit. He cursed at Eastern Wu’s emperor for his lack of integrity. The old general was a loyal and caring man. He would be an asset to Northern Qi.
Nan Xun told Ji Bo he intended to meet the old general again. Ji Bo looked hesitant, but only told him to be careful in the end.
Nan Xun knew what Ji Bo had left unsaid. Too many things had happened. The old general might not believe his words. However, he had made up his mind. He just had to be careful.
He led the old general to the forest near Eastern Wu’s camp again. Without preamble, Nan Xun said, “I know why you turned my offer down. You’re forced to stick with your tyrant of a leader.”
The old general stared at Nan Xun inquisitively. Nan Xun continued, “The general is a pure-hearted man. Although you weren’t willing to help your emperor, your families were in his hands. You didn’t have a choice. There’s no need to worry now. My people have rescued your wife and other family members. They’re - ”
“I didn’t take you as such despicable man!” growled the old general.
Nan Xun frowned. “You’ve misunderstood.”
“Aren’t you trying to use them against me? I’ll kill you and go rescue them!” The general unsheathed his sword, intending to fight Nan Xun to the death. He didn’t pull his punches at all. Nan Xun wasn’t willing to fight him. He backed away and didn’t even draw his sword.
He’d expected the general to be stubborn, but being subjected to such bullish attitude was different from imagining it. Nan Xun wasn’t a merciful man. The old general was being a right fool. He was trying to help the general reunite with his family, and yet he jumped to the wrong conclusion so quickly. That killed the last of Nan Xun’s hesitance.
He narrowed his eyes and drew his sword to block the general’s forceful cut. The general had once been a heroic man, but time spared no men. He wasn’t as strong as he’d been. Although he’d put all his force behind every attack, he wasn’t able to even scratch Nan Xun.
Nan Xun’s sword was as agile as a snake. He quickly knocked the general’s blade away and caught both his wrists from behind. “How unwise of you to put words into my mouth without basis. I was trying to help you. Think about it, general. Where do you think I’ve rescued your family from? You must know where your family had been staying. They disappeared right after your emperor’s warning, didn’t they?”
Jun Huang had the sharpest tongue of all the people Nan Xun knew. After staying with her for so long, he’d learned a thing or two about the art of persuasion. Besides, he was telling nothing but the truth, which made his words even more effective. The old general stilled and dejectedly dropped his sword.
Nan Xun sighed. He’d thought it would take longer to get the old general to see the truth. Fortunately the general was smart enough to arrive at the realization himself.
If the fight continued, they might attract the Eastern Wu’s soldiers. Nan Xun had come on his own. He had to think about his safety.
“Why did you do that? I’m old. I can’t help you much. You’re not getting anything in return for your effort.” The old general turned around to face Nan Xun, an unreadable emotion flashing through his hazy eyes. He was mourning his life as the defender of his nation.
“I can protect your family and let you reunite with them as long as you surrender,” promised Nan Xun. “We value talented people, while Eastern Wu’s emperor has lost his reason. If you care about the regular folk, give up on fighting and assist us in secret. We won’t hurt the civilians in your country.”
The old general stared at Nan Xun as if trying to read his thoughts. After a while, he nodded. He was willing to stop serving a tyrant.
Jun Huang was getting weaker and paler. Her blindness lasted longer. She spent all her time in bed. Nan Jihan was concerned. He kept a closer eye on her so that she wouldn’t tire herself.
He knew Jun Huang had been worrying about Nan Xun and helping him from a distance despite her conditions. In the beginning, he’d stayed out of it. However, she’d spent even more time and effort on helping Nan Xun once the issue became more difficult to deal with, which caused her health to deteriorate. Nan Jihan had no choice but to put his people to watch Jun Huang and force her to rest regularly.
The blood lotus finally matured. Oleg Cragfiend and Nan Jihan couldn’t be happier. Nan Jihan personally followed the poison master to the mountain to extract the lotus. It was kept in a custom-made crystal box and delivered to the palace.
One would have assumed a plant of mythical quality would have a blue glow, but the lotus’s glow was blood red after it matured, which made the flower look even more alluring and captivating.
There was no telling how many blood lotuses had been cultivated before, but it was the first time Oleg Cragfiend and Nan Jihan had seen a mature one. Nan Jihan couldn’t tear his eyes away from the lotus. Oleg Cragfiend sighed and reminded him, “I’m going to make the medicine, Your Majesty.”
Nan Jihan broke out from his trance and smiled awkwardly before he left the room, giving the poison master his privacy.
Oleg Cragfiend carefully plucked the flower and put it in a white jade bowl with a few necessary ingredients. He made his way to the side palace.
Jun Huang had just woken up. Her vision was still blurry and grey. She rubbed at her forehead to soothe her headache. She’d thought it was the maid when footsteps came her way. The smell of medicine told her it was her master.
“What is it, master?” Jun Huang closed her eyes and asked with a smile. She couldn’t see anyway.
“The blood lotus has matured, and I’ve made you your medicine. Take it.” Oleg Cragfiend sat on the bed and fed Jun Huang the medicine.
She couldn’t take the medicine herself, so she let him help. The fragrance of the lotus hit her senses. It didn’t smell at all of blood.
The flower melted in her mouth and went down easily. It chilled her from the inside. Once she’d taken all of the medicine, the cold became almost unbearable. Her head became heavy and she lost consciousness.