Nan Xun was surprised to hear that Nan Jihan had deployed their troops, but he didn’t suspect anything. Southern Mu was Northern Qi’s ally. He assumed Nan Jihan was here to help and didn’t think to be wary of him.
Right when Nan Xun and his men were going to defeat Eastern Wu’s army, they were ambushed.
Nan Xun couldn’t believe his ears when he heard that it was Southern Mu. He almost got hit by a stray arrow.
“What do we do, general?” The officer in charge turned to Nan Xun for a solution.
Nan Xun soon recovered his composure. He had the soldiers circled them with shields and dismounted. His face was tight and frigid.
He balled his hands into fists. He’d clearly overestimated Nan Jihan’s integrity. He scoffed. “What’s our status?”
“Eastern Wu’s army of three thousand is at our front. After losing their left wing, their center and right wing amount to fifteen hundred. I’m not sure how many infantrymen they have following their riders. Southern Mu has deployed at least five thousand soldiers. They’re behind us, chasing after our left wing.”
“How many have we lost?” Nan Xun cut in, his eyes icy.
The officer touched his nose. “We haven’t lost that many in our battle with Eastern Wu, but we’re going to lose our left wing, which amount to a few hundreds. Given the circumstances, however, we’ll have to sacrifice many men to retreat safely, which will leave us with only a thousand elites.”
Nan Xun gritted his teeth, veins popping out from his forehead. He forced himself to calm down. He’d very much want to decimate Southern Mu, but the officer stopped him.
“We have to retreat and live to fight another day, general.”
“Are you telling me to sacrifice the soldiers for my own safety?” Nan Xun glared at the officer. The officer nodded despite his nervousness.
Nan Xun was about to tear him a new one, but then Eastern Wu attacked them with arrows again. They didn’t have any time to waste. Nan Xun knew what the smart thing to do was.
Finally, under the officers’ urging looks, he nodded and mounted his horse. He was escorted back to the camp by the officers.
Nan Xun ascended the city wall. He’d pulled a thousand elites back, but lost three thousand soldiers. He looked down at the battlefield. Nan Jihan’s men cared nothing about their alliance and slaughtered Northern Qi’s left wing. Then they joined Eastern Wu’s army.
Jun Huang soon heard the news. She couldn’t find Nan Xun even after Northern Qi’s army had retreated. She asked around and found out that Nan Xun was still on the city wall.
She looked up at him from a distance. He stood on the wall like a tall, lone statue. His white battle robe was tainted with blood. His armor reflected cold, blinding light. Jun Huang had never seen him looking so devastated.
Nan Xun was still staring at the battlefield when Jun Huang ascended the stairs. She followed his gaze and saw a sea of bodies. Some had lost a couple limbs. Some had been decapitated. Some hung on a spear. Some were covered in arrows.
The land beneath them was a crimson red. The snow had melted from the heat of their blood. Red mixed with melted snow and trickled through the land.
Quite a few banners had fallen. The soldiers cleaning up the mess picked them up and wiped away the blood before putting them away. Then they carried the bodies back to the city, awaiting Nan Xun’s order.
Jun Huang’s throat tightened. She’d thought Nan Xun had gotten used to deaths, but now she saw the raw pain in his eyes.
She took Nan Xun’s trembling hand in hers. He turned to her, started. He wanted to put on a smile, but his lips wouldn’t oblige.
“I’ve heard,” Jun Huang said gently.
Nan Xun smiled bitterly and said in a hoarse voice, “I am to blame. If I’d kept my guard up when I heard about Southern Mu’s arrival, we wouldn’t have suffered such terrible loss.”
“I should’ve known. I hadn’t sent him any letter. He couldn’t have been here to help us. Ha, how naive I am to assume he’d be our ally. My mistake resulted in the loss of three thousand...” He choked up.
Heart throbbing, Jun Huang threw herself into Nan Xun’s arms and held him tightly. “It’s not your fault. Nan Jihan is to blame… You didn’t cause the deaths. Don’t think too much. We’ll defeat them next time and avenge the soldiers we’ve lost.”
Nan Xun pulled his lips but couldn’t manage a smile. He closed his eyes, resting his stinging eyes. Jun Huang could feel him trembling. It made her heart ache and stoked her fury toward Nan Jihan.
They stayed atop the wall for a long time. When they returned, the dead bodies had been brought back and registered.
“General, what should we do with them?” The officers knew Nan Xun must feel guilty, but they needed an answer.
Nan Xun was silent for a long while. “Bury them and hand me the list. I’ll submit it to the court.”
He staggered. Jun Huang caught him just in time.
It wasn’t the first time the officer had followed Nan Xun to battles. He knew how deeply the loss had hit Nan Xun. He wanted to offer comfort, but he couldn’t find the right words. In the end, he sighed and walked away.
Back to the tent, Nan Xun barely had any time to rest before the lead shadowguard told him he’d caught a strange man lurking about. He was going to deal with the man when the man said he wanted to talk to Jun Huang.
Jun Huang frowned and told the shadowguard to bring the man to her. There was something familiar about him, but she couldn’t place the face.
“I’m His Majesty’s personal guard,” said the man. “We’ve met in Northern Qi.”
Now Jun Huang remembered. This man was Nan Jihans’. He’d kidnapped her back in Northern Qi.
Her expression darkened. “Why are you here?”
“His Majesty ordered me to deliver this to you.” The man handed her a letter. Jun Huang didn’t want to take it, but Nan Xun did it for her.
It said that Nan Jihan had a very good reason to have done what he did. He hoped Nan Xun and Jun Huang would understand and go along with the act. The attack today was to convince Ji Bo.
Jun Huang scoffed and disregarded the letter. Nan Xun had doubts, but he didn’t say anything immediately. He let the guard go.
Things didn’t end there. Nan Jihan visited the camp in person at night.
Jun Huang was surprised to see him, while Nan Xun realized that Nan Jihan was telling the truth. Without wasting any time, Nan Jihan spoke up. “The ambush during the day was to relax Ji Bo’s guard. If we’ve planned ahead, you wouldn’t have let Eastern Wu have their victory… I pretended to work with Ji Bo in order to get Tianyu’s imperial seal. Everyone knows I’ve been looking for it. I have no reason to lie to you. You must know Ji Bo is a descendent of Tianyu as well.”
Jun Huang and Nan Xun knew about Southern Mu’s history and the importance of Tianyu’s imperial seal. Nan Jihan’s explanation did make sense. It was the smart thing to do to work with Nan Jihan if all he wanted was the seal.
Before Nan Jihan could celebrate his success, Jun Huang cut in, “How do we know you won’t betray us? We can work with you, but you have to honor your word. Moreover, you have to make amends for Northern Qi’s loss today.”
Nan Jihan smiled bitterly. He would gladly do that, but he couldn’t bear seeing the wariness in Jun Huang’s eyes. After all, he’d once been in love with her. It pained him to be subjected to her suspicion.
Bidding them farewell, Nan Jihan turned and walked away. Nan Xun looked at him thoughtfully.
Nan Jihan’s personal guard had been silent. Only after they returned to the temporary residence Ji Bo arranged for Nan Jihan did the guard say, “Are you really going to help Northern Qi, Your Majesty? What about the imperial seal?”
Nan Jihan shot him a glance. The guard fell silent.
Nan Jihan was their emperor. He must have thought through his decisions. They were in no place to question him.
It was a sleepless night. Nan Jihan had intended to take some rest to collect his thoughts, but then Ji Bo sent a man to retrieve him. He frowned. He only realized how early it was when he asked for the time.
He cleaned himself up and changed into better clothes before following Ji Bo’s man to Ji Bo’s tent. He parted the fabric and walked in. Seeing the dancers and musicians inside put a frown on his face.
He didn’t expect Ji Bo to find such entertainment even in the middle of nowhere. Nan Jihan scoffed inwardly. He put on a smile and exchanged pleasantries with Ji Bo.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Hiya, this novel is coming to an end. The last 5 chapters will be released on the same day. So basically, the finale will be next Tuesday. Thanks for sticking with me :D