“Retreat according to plan,” Nan Xun ordered. He knew he couldn’t win this fight. His soldiers nodded in understanding and turned around.
Ji Bo was just getting started. He wasn’t going to let them leave so easily. He scoffed and insisted on giving chase despite the others’ objections.
Nan Xun’s eyes turned cold. He and his officers lured Ji Bo to where they had set up an ambush.
Ji Bo hadn’t noticed anything wrong. Seeing that Nan Xun and his men had fled to a hill when cornered, he ordered his soldiers to ascend as well. They soon climbed to the top.
Ji Bo had taken with him only a small troop, but it was more than enough to take care of Nan Xun and his men. Nonetheless, the general didn’t seem at all nervous.
“You better consider surrendering when you still can, Nan Xun,” Ji Bo said arrogantly. “I may spare your life if you do.”
Nan Xun scoffed and lit a signaling flare. Ji Bo frowned, staring at the bottom of the hill, wondering if Nan Xun had put people here beforehand.
Suddenly, from the trenches emerged a group of soldiers. They had remained undetected with the snow as their cover. Caught off guard, Ji Bo widened his eyes. There was little he could do. They were already surrounded.
“How did you know I’d send my men to attack you?” Ji Bo asked, staring at Nan Xun with a mad glint in his eyes. “How do you know I’d have them pursue you to this location? Has everything been part of your plan?”
Ji Bo shook his head to himself. “No, You didn’t know I would put water over the wall. You must have planned to break into the city at first, am I right?”
Nan Xun didn’t waste his time answering Ji Bo’s questions. His goal was to apprehend Ji Bo and found out where he could find Jun Hao and the cure to Jun Huang’s poison. He scoffed and took out a dagger, stabbing at Ji Bo.
Adrenaline rushed through Ji Bo’s system. Before the blade could cut him, he grabbed a soldier and used him to block the cut.
That ignited a fight. Ji Bo fell on his hip, startled by the intense fight happening right before him. If not for his men’s help, he wouldn’t even be able to get up.
Recognizing that he was going to fail or even get himself in danger, Ji Bo took a calming breath and ordered the soldiers to retreat, shooting Nan Xun a glare.
Sensing Eastern Wu’s intention, Nan Xun’s men wanted to give chase and made Eastern Wu pay. However, Nan Xun stopped them.
“General, we should chase them down,” said an officer.
Nan Xun narrowed his eyes at the direction Ji Bo had fled in. “A beast is most dangerous when cornered. We’ll get back and recuperate first.”
He mounted his horse. The others obediently followed him back to the camp.
Ji Bo didn’t let the soldiers stop until they were a good distance away, but then he realized that Nan Xun hadn’t followed. He was both disappointed and angry.
“What do we do now, Gentleman Ji ?” asked a soldier.
Ji Bo cursed under his breath. Whatever had happened, happened. He stopped his men from setting up an ambush and told them to take a short rest. He tightened his jaw. They would return to the city later.
It was his first direct clash with Nan Xun, and he lost! Things had gone according to Nan Xun’s plan.
Ji Bo had always fancied himself a talented and wise man. He didn’t expect to lose to a general who knew only how to fight. He didn’t take the defeat well.
Soon, though, he realized that Jun Huang must have been giving Nan Xun advice and pointing out Ji Bo’s plan. Ji Bo had known Jun Huang for a while. He knew how clever she was.
They returned to the city on the high ground. He had barely rested when the burly man barged in, panting. “Bad news, Gentleman Ji. There isn’t that much food left in the city. If things go on, we’ll starve to death before we get killed.”
He was telling the truth. Ji Bo recognized the gravity of the issue and returned to his tent. He drafted a letter to ask when the supplies would arrive.
However, he didn’t get a response. Ji Bo cursed out loud. After a few more letters, he received only excuses from the royal clan. It made his blood boil.
In a fit of anger, he grabbed anything and everything in his tent and threw them to the ground. His tantrum was interrupted when the scholarly man entered his tent. He turned a blind eye to Ji Bo’s venomous stare. “It makes sense that the royal clan will be unwilling to deliver us supplies.”
Ji Bo calmed himself and frowned. “Get to the point.”
The scholarly man raised an eyebrow. “Before, the royal clan would’ve delivered the supplies already. We’ve suffered a series of defeats, though. They’ve begun to doubt your ability. Of course they’ll hesitate to give us anything.”
Ji Bo’s face clouded. He had to admit the man had a point, which further stoked the fury in his heart. He kicked the scholarly man out. Once he was calm enough, he had someone follow the man. If the man did anything unusual, he wanted to know.
His personal shadowguard came out of nowhere and whispered into his ear, “The fight for the throne is getting intense.”
Ji Bo thought for a while. He believed it was time he put a puppet on the throne so that he could be in control. Once that was decided, he ordered the shadowguard to make the arrangements.
Nan Xun and Ji Bo knew each other well. And their mutual understanding grew even deeper after their clashes. The last defeat had been bothering Ji Bo.
Nan Xun wasn’t interested in a dance. He’d intended to finish things off with a single assault.
It was getting chilly at night. Jun Huang, being prone to coldness, fell asleep quickly. Nan Xun couldn’t sleep with all the concerns weighing him down. He sat up and put on a robe before leaving the tent.
“Our man is back, Your Highness,” a shadowguard said as soon as Nan Xun walked out.
Nan Xun’s eyes flashed. He threw his tent a glance and nodded at the shadowguard, following him to a smaller tent not far from them. Inside was a middle-aged man. He greeted Nan Xun with a bow and said, “The Eastern Wu army is running low on supplies. Ji Bo sent many letters to the imperial clan and finally convinced them to deliver supplies here. They’ve departed and are expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon.”
“Are you sure about the info?” asked Nan Xun.
The man nodded. Nan Xun made a noise of assent and told the man to be careful and to keep his identity a secret. The man nodded. He disappeared into the night once Nan Xun had left.
When Nan Xun returned to his tent, Jun Huang had woken up.
“Why are you awake?” he asked.
“Where did you go?” she said in lieu of a response, looking up at Nan Xun.
There was no reason for him to lie to her. He explained, “Our spy said that a batch of supplies are coming in for Eastern Wu.”
That piqued her interest. “Do you want to steal it?”
Nan Xun nodded. Jun Huang’s eyes lit up. After some deliberation, she said, “Take me with you. I won’t make any troubles for you, and I’ll follow your orders. I’m just curious.”
“I hear it’s not uncommon for armies to steal each other’s supplies. That must be why you’ve prepared enough resources to last us for the duration of the war before coming. However, won’t Ji Bo expect an assault?” Jun Huang bombarded him with questions.
It’d been a while since Nan Xun saw Jun Huang be so lively. He answered all her questions but didn’t say if he’d take her with him. Instead of arguing, she simply looked at him with bright eyes until he caved.
He knew he wouldn’t be able to say no when Jun Huang was being so insistent. She was the woman he loved. He didn’t want to see her disappointed.
Oleg Cragfiend had also told him that the odds weren’t good for finding a cure to Jun Huang’s poison. Perhaps she’d collapse sooner rather than later. He didn’t want to think about that, but he had to face the reality. The most he could do was to make her happy.
He sighed. “I can take you if you want, but you must follow me closely at all times. If things go pear-shaped, you have to escape when I tell you to. Promise me that, and you can come with me.”
Jun Huang nodded eagerly. Nan Xun sighed again and ruffled her hair, silently praying that there would be no danger.
She fell asleep leaning against him. Nan Xun gingerly placed her on the bed and dropped a kiss on her forehead.
His lead shadowguard called out for him. Nan Xun tucked Jun Huang in before walking out of the tent.
“The officers are waiting,” the shadowguard said respectfully.
Nan Xun nodded. He made his way to the tent for strategic meetings with the shadowguard in tow. This would be a sleepless night. He would make Ji Bo suffer even if they failed to steal the supplies.