The two men face clouded before they gave Ji Bo a ferocious grin. “We might not be as good as the general, but he’s dead. Rest assured, we won’t forget about you once we attain power. You’ll get anything you wish for.”
“What if General Nan Xun is still alive?” Ji Bo asked coldly.
“Once we become the generals, we’ll make sure he’s dead.” The two men narrowed their eyes, their dark expression illuminated by candlelight.
Ji Bo’s gaze remained steady and calm. Now he knew the two men had been the ones stirring up trouble in the army, which made them Nan Xun’s targets. Their greed had gotten the better of them. They foolishly asked for more despite the power they already held.
Ji Bo scoffed and shot to his feet. “You aren’t getting out of here. Since you harbor such thoughts, there’s no room for you in the army.”
He made a gesture, and soldiers lurking around the tent swarmed in. Realizing their mistakes, the two men paled and tried to take Ji Bo hostage, but they were stopped by the second in command before they could do anything.
They realized they’d been dancing to Ji Bo’s tune as soon as they saw the second in command. Their faces went red in rage. It was impossible for them to escape now. The second in command brought them to his subordinates.
“Are you alright?” the second in command turned to Ji Bo and asked worriedly.
Ji Bo waved a hand in the air and sighed in relief, collapsing onto the divan with his gaze fixed on something beside him. The second in command waited for everyone to leave before asking him what to do next.
“According to Prince Nan, the most effective way is to execute them in public,” Ji Bo said in a cold voice. There was a flash of emotion in his eyes that vanished too quickly for the second in command to catch.
The second in command nodded and went off to prepare for tomorrow. Once he was out of the tent, one of Nan Xun’s guards walked out of the shadow.
Ji Bo was clever and brave, but he was also a scholar who couldn’t fight. Since they were dealing with ruthless men who wouldn’t even blink before they killed, Nan Xun had assigned a shadow guard to protect Ji Bo. The guard also acted as their messenger.
“Thank you for your hard work, Mister Ji Bo,” said the guard. “Prince Nan will be sure to express his gratitude himself once he returns.”
“I hear that Jun Huang is with him now,” Ji Bo said, glancing at the guard. “I wonder if she’s been cured yet. Tell them not to worry. I can handle the situation here.”
The shadow guard was surprised that Ji Bo knew that without ever leaving the camp. It was a good thing Ji Bo was their friend rather than an enemy. It’d be a great challenge to face such a foe.
Early the next morning, the second in command brought the two officers to the center of the camp. The soldiers looked on with surprise. The two men looked in pain, and their bodies were covered in wounds. They’d clearly been punished.
“What’s going on?”
“Who knows? Weren’t they fine yesterday?”
“I hear something happened last night.”
The soldiers speculated among themselves, trying and failing to figure out what was happening. The second in command looked at them coldly and only relaxed a little when Ji Bo showed up. He walked to the strategist and said in a voice that could reach everyone in the camp, “These two attempted to capture Mister Ji Bo as hostage last night. It was shameful of them to do that while the general is missing. They’ve also colluded Eastern Wu to work against us. What do you think we should do to them, Mister Ji Bo?”
The two men exchanged a glance. They hadn’t realized the second in command had found out about their connections to the moles as well. They could’ve sworn they’d cleaned up their messes.
The soldiers looked at them with shock. So that was what had happened. They glared at the kneeling officers with venom in their eyes. If there were things they could throw, the two men would’ve been knocked out.
Ji Bo leveled the two men with a cold stare, his gaze so frosty it made them shudder. The second in command had never seen the usually friendly strategist like this before. It made him a little nervous.
“Since we’ve identified their crimes, they shall be punished according to the military law. Show no mercy. Open your eyes and see for yourself what would befall anyone attempting the same thing… you’d wish for the mercy of a quick death.” Ji Bo walked away, his steely presence invoking the image of a rakshasa from hell.
The second in command was suddenly reminded of Jun Huang. The two strategists both had an inherent air of intimidation to them.
He shifted his gaze to the men kneeling on the ground and said to the executioner, “Tear them to pieces with five horses and throw their body parts to the wolves.” Ignoring the pleas for mercy, the second in command left.
The news soon reached Nan Xun and Jun Huang. Her only reaction was a slight frown. When Nan Xun asked, she simply smiled and explained, “They have to pay for their actions. People like them deserve to die.”
“Our heroine is indeed no lesser than any men. You’re still the girl I know.” Qi Yun clapped and approached them with a smile. Nan Xun and Jun Huang was surprised by his sudden arrival.
Jun Huang pulled away from Nan Xun’s arms and asked with a smile, “Why are you here? Have you dealt with your business in the court?”
Qi Yun nodded and briefed her on what had happened. He then turned to Nan Xun with disapproval in his eyes. “There is a war going on. How worthy of envy it is for Royal Brother to still be enjoying your time with Jun Huang.”
“If you want such a life, there are plenty of women for you to choose from,” Nan Xun said, throwing him a warning glance.
Qi Yun knew what Nan Xun meant. He wanted to say Jun Huang was the one he wanted, but he knew that if he did, he couldn’t even be her friend anymore.
He sighed. “I came to the border because Ji Bo said they needed a leader to keep the soldiers under control. I decided to check on Jun Huang as well.”
“She’s fine,” Nan Xun said faintly. “You should go to Ji Bo as soon as possible. Things aren’t looking good now. On the surface, it seems that Northern Qi has gained the upper hand, but there is a great turbulence hidden underneath. Ji Bo and my second in command are the only people keeping the soldiers from acting out. If you arrive at the camp, morale will improve greatly. I have other things to take care of and have to stay a little longer.”
Qi Yun tried to decipher if there was any hidden meaning in Nan Xun’s words. He nodded in the end. He knew what the right thing to do was. Before he left, he said what he’d been meaning to say, “Royal Brother has made a risky move.”
Nan Xun smiled. “You know as well as I do that one can’t catch a tiger cub without venturing into a tiger’s den. I had to do that to identify the traitors.”
Qi Yun fell silent. Ji Bo’s messenger had come urging him again. He had no choice but to leave, turning back to look at Jun Huang once every three steps. Once he’d left, Jun Huang walked up to Nan Xun, her heart feeling heavy for his concerned look.
“I like the life we lead here,” she said with a smile, looking up at him. “After my family is avenged and things have settled, we’ll take my brother to a hidden corner of the world and live our lives in peace.”
Nan Xun looked down at her bright smile. He shared her concern that he’d be suspected for exceeding the emperor in reputation. He didn’t like the arguments that would arise, and he didn’t want Jun Huang to get dragged into the storm with him. He sighed in relief at her suggestion.
“That’ll be good. Wherever you want to go, I’ll go with you.” Nan Xun stroked her silky dark hair, his eyes adoring.
Not long after they started enjoying each other’s company, Oleg Cragfiend came.
Jun Huang heard the noises when she was reading books in the backyard. She grabbed her sword. Before she could draw it, she saw that it was her master.
She was surprised to see him. “Master.”
Oleg Cragfiend scoffed. “Do you think you’re fine and don’t need my treatment anymore after the poison is cleansed?”
Nan Xun was befuddled by the poison master’s words. He realized what that was about when he saw the way Jun Huang lowered her eyes guiltily. “Did you come here without telling anyone?”
Jun Huang shut her mouth and closed her eyes, refusing to have the conversation.
She should be resting after the poison was cleansed, and yet she’d carelessly disregarded her health. Nan Xun felt his heart seized up in fear. He echoed Oleg Cragfiend sentiment and reprimanded her for being reckless.
Jun Huang was fine with being scolded by her master, but not Nan Xun as well. She stormed away but lost consciousness before she could go far.
Nan Xun glanced at Oleg Cragfiend in panic and rushed up to Jun Huang to pick her up. He carried her into the garden, placing her on the divan. Oleg Cragfiend chased after them and took her pulse.