The officers had heard what was going on. They knew there was no need for so many of them if they were only going to steal the supplies. They assumed Nan Xun was going to pick one of them to lead a team.
“I’m going to lead the team for intercepting the supplies myself,” Nan Xun said.
The officers didn’t expect that. Stealing supplies might seem like a simple enough task, but it wasn’t. It was a common tactic. Eastern Wu was likely to have foreseen their action. If their operation failed, it could mean deaths. That was why anyone of importance was rarely assigned to such a task.
“Please allow me to do it,” an officer spoke up.
Nan Xun waved a hand dismissively and sat down. “I’m not arguing with you. What I want to talk about is the general battle plan tomorrow.”
“Eastern Wu will be ready, but they know they can’t put too many people to safeguard the supplies. At most, they may put one officer in charge, and they won’t do anything until noon. If that’s the case, there’s no reason for us to go head to head with them… March out tomorrow morning and catch them off guard. Forget about the supplies… I’ll teach you how you’re going to command the troops. Do not make any mistakes. You have to convince them that I’m still in the army.”
Nan Xun talked until his voice was hoarse. He finished a pot of tea himself, which helped a little.
The officers had learned a lot from Nan Xun that night. Their eyes were bright with excitement.
When the meeting ended, the day was about to break. It was time for them to set out. Nan Xun made his way back to his tent.
Jun Huang was already awake when he entered. She looked up at him and smiled. “You must have formulated a plan already. We should go. Time’s a wastin.”
Nan Xun took the tea Jun Huagn had asked for earlier and left the tent with her. They joined up with a team of soldiers and rode out.
The sun hadn’t risen above the horizon. It was dark, and the wind was chilling. Jun Huang leaned closer toward Nan Xun. The horses left hoof prints on the snow.
They moved quickly. Soon, they heard something approaching them. They exchanged a glance and dismounted. After hiding the horses, they went up a hill and lay low.
Nan Xun was almost on top of Jun Huang, shielding her from the falling snow. He pulled her closer, worried that she would feel cold. “Take this. Just to be safe.”
Jun Huang turned to see Nan Xun handing her a dagger. She took it without hesitation.
Illuminated by the rising sun was a group of men. They were Eastern Wu’s couriers.
Once they had entered the circle Nan Xun’s men made, Nan Xun charged out with his soldiers. The sudden turn of events caught the couriers off guard.
Nan Xun’s men were quick and agile. The couriers had been in a rush to deliver the supplies. They didn’t dare cause a delay when Ji Bo was in such a hurry. Thus, they hadn’t gotten much sleep. The ambush caught them by surprise. Many of them were struck down before they could even draw their swords.
A courrier who had been staying at the back started. Recognizing the futility of resistance, he fled. Jun Huang spotted him running away. She narrowed her eyes and went after him.
The man didn’t expect that. He drew his sword. Jun Huang only had a dagger as her weapon. She picked up a wooden branch to block the blade.
The man relaxed when he saw that his pursuer was a woman. He struck at Jun Huang with quick and precise moves.
Jun Huang backed away from a coming slash, her back knocking into a tree. With an eyebrow raised, she kicked the trunk to propel herself and leapt over the man’s head. The man dodged to the side quickly, but Jun Huang’s dagger managed to cut his arm.
Nan Xun finished off the couriers and came for Jun Huang before the man could strike again. He kicked the man in the back and knocked him off the hill.
Jun Huang was going to rush down to take care of the man, but Nan Xun stopped her.
“Are we just going to let him go?” she asked.
Nan Xun shook his head. “The fall is enough to seriously injure him. Besides, the dagger is tempered with poison. He won’t live for long. We should return now.”
Jun Huang nodded and followed Nan Xun back to their group. They did an inventory on the supplies before making their way to the camp.
The man had survived the fall. He struggled to his feet and patched himself up, gritting his teeth. He didn’t notice anything wrong with the cut on his arm. He stumbled his way to Eastern Wu’s camp.
Ji Bo almost spat out blood when he heard that Nan Xun had taken the supplies. He was going to ask more questions when the man died of the poison suddenly. Ji Bo’s face went dark. His urge to kill Nan Xun intensified.
Things weren’t looking good. Ji Bo had no choice but to use one of his trump cards. He collected his thoughts and summoned his shadowguard, making the order.
The shadowguard was surprised initially, but it made sense for Ji Bo to make that move. It’d be uncharacteristic of the strategist to do nothing after the failure he suffered.
He had Ji Bo’s letter delivered to Northern Qi’s imperial city. It was time to fight back.
Sir Zhao heard about an incoming letter as soon as he woke up. Instead of having the letter delivered to him immediately, he had breakfast first and made his way to the study. He prohibited anyone from bothering him before opening the envelope.
His expression was unreadable after reading the letter. He burned it with candle fire and rubbed at the calluses covering his palms.
A scholar official shouldn’t have such callused hands. He was actually a fighter who had been laying low for revenge.
His lips curved into a cruel smile. He quickly schooled his expression into one of indifference and summoned all his men.
Once, he’d been the general of Tianyu. After its destruction, he had wanted to take his own life, but Ji Bo stopped him. He told him to lay low in Northern Qi. The years of waiting was all for this moment.
Everyone in his manor was secretly a special-trained deathsworn, as capable as any soldiers. Now that Ji Bo was in trouble, it was time for him to come out of hiding.
The Zhao Manor was emptied overnight. It was as if they’d all vanished into thin air. Qi Yun was surprised when he heard, but he couldn’t figure out what had happened. He knew Sir Zhao as a disciplined scholar official. He ordered his men to search for the official, but failed to inform Nan Xun.
All of a sudden, Sir Zhao led more than a hundred of his deathsworns and charged at Nan Xun from within Northern Qi’s territory, catching Nan Xun by surprise. No one had anticipated the turn of events. Sir Zhao specifically had been targeting Nan Xun.
Their paths had crossed before in the imperial city. Nan Xun didn’t expect them to one day become enemies.
Ji Bo had ordered Sir Zhao to assassinate Nan Xun. However, he only had about a hundred men with him, while Nan Xun had almost ten thousand. His only choice was to carve a path through the border city gate. Once the gate was forced open, the waiting Eastern Wu soldiers’ advanced in droves.
It was a hectic fight, but Nan Xun didn’t lose his calm. He deftly countered the enemy’s attack.
It was fortunate that they’d had dug a moat a few inches from the city wall, which was filled with oil rather than water. Nan Xun had the moat lit and a wall of fire soared up, keeping the enemies from getting close. Those who had slower reflex even got burned to death.
Nan Xun moved quickly. After the enemies had backed away, he had the moat emptied and put out the fire with snow. Immediately, he led a charge against Eastern Wu.
Ji Bo had no choice but to order the soldiers to retreat. Nan Xun didn’t give chase since his men weren’t in a better condition. Neither side won the battle, and both suffered casualties.
Nan Xun was no stranger to loss. War showed mercy to no one. He’d witnessed countless deaths himself. He had someone make a list of those who hadn’t returned to the camp. It’d be ideal if they could find the bodies. They submitted the list to the imperial court and requested for the families left behind to be taken care of.
Eastern Wu soon recovered. Ji Bo officially declared war against Nan Xun, who used it as a way to motivate his soldiers. They began to prepare for the next battle.
Jun Huang could never get used to witnessing deaths. It pained her to see the crippled soldiers whining on the ground. Some of them were missing an arm. Others, a leg. She couldn’t bear looking at the blood-tainted snow.
Nan Xun knew Jun Huang was naturally caring. He didn’t want her to be numb to deaths like he was. Thus, when Jun Huang said she wanted to join Oleg Cragfiend as a war medic, he agreed. He told her to be careful. The soldiers might get rough. He didn’t want her to get hurt.