Ji Bo laughed for a long time before he stopped. There were tears at the corners of his eyes. He stood atop the wall and looked around. His failure was just setting in. He felt lost.
Nan Xun kept an eye on him in case he did something drastic and hurt someone, but Ji Bo simply stood there. The thirty-year-old man seemed old beyond his time. His messy grey hair flew in the air. He looked frail in that turquoise robe of his.
He turned around and walked toward the other side of the wall. Nan Xun wasn’t sure what he was going to do.
Ji Bo looked down and saw Northern Qi’s soldiers cleaning up the battlefields. He looked up at the cliff and saw soldiers who hadn’t grappled down standing atop. That was how Northern Qi had broken into the city.
He knew Nan Xun couldn’t have entered simply with the help of Nan Jihan. He’d filled the city with his men. They wouldn’t listen to Nan Jihan’s order. Nan Xun must have dropped down from the cliff and killed the guards before letting the rest of his troops in.
Ji Bo laughed. Then his laughter turned into a wounded howl. He didn’t expect this to be his end. He knew Nan Xun and the others wouldn’t let him go. He was done. There was no way back.
He sighed and closed his eyes.
He jumped off.
Before anyone could react, the tail of his robe had disappeared from their sight. Jun Huang was the first to move. She ran downstairs.
On the ground was a mess of dead bodies and blood. Eastern Wu soldiers tried futilely to run away, while Northern Qi soldiers quickly captured them. The resistant ones, they killed. There was no piece of land left untouched by death, and the smell of blood was pungent.
Jun Huang soon found the dying Ji Bo. She ran toward him, ignoring the blood tainting her dress. Hearing her footsteps, Ji Bo stared at her, his bright eyes filled with a mix of resentment, sorrow, and regret.
Jun Huang stopped three steps away from Ji Bo. Finally, she asked quietly, “Where is Jun Hao?”
“Can you… call me uncle once?” Ji Bo struggled to say. Blood rushed out of his mouth. He couldn’t move. He knew his lungs had been damaged beyond recovery, and he would soon pass away. He stared at Jun Huang, pleading.
The smoke permeating the air reminded him of the day Tianyu was destroyed. His sister held a younger him in her arms, avoiding the danger, avoiding the swords and weapons. She’d kept him alive when he should’ve died.
He almost mistook Jun Huang as his sister when she ran to him. His heart squeezed painfully. He opened his mouth, but the word “sister” failed to take shape.
Jun Huang took in his expressions. She pitied him, but she would never forgive him. Ji Bo knew that as well. He laughed bitterly and said with a sigh, “I’ve hidden Jun Hao at a… a safe place. Someone would be teaching him the way to rebuild a nation. If he doesn’t want to do that, he can live a good life… I’ve left him with an abundance of...”
Ji Bo closed his eyes. The last of his life had left him. Everything seemed to have fallen silent. Jun Huang could only hear a faint, rustling sound.
Nan Xun’s throat tightened when he saw Jun Huang staring at Ji Bo’s body with unfocused eyes. He wrapped his arms around her cold body. “It’s alright. We’ll find Jun Hao even without him.”
Jun Huang told him what Ji Bo had said to her. Without a word, Nan Xun went off to tell his men to look for Jun Hao.
His lead shadowguard came up to him and said respectfully, “Your Highness, Ji Bo’s shadowguard died from the torture.”
Nan Xun patted Jun Huang’s back comfortingly. “What has he said?”
“He said the House of Heavenly Fiends is a secret organization Tianyu used to gather information and do the dirty work. After Tianyu’s destruction, the organization went underground. It was run by the former royal clan members.”
“Your Highness and Miss Jun were able to take over because of Ji Bo’s instruction and Miss Jun’s identity. The organization is mainly composed of Tianyu’s descendents. They all should’ve died a long time ago.”
Nan Xun’s expression darkened. “Who is the one in charge of the organization? What’s his relationship with Ji Bo?”
“It was Ji Bo.”
Nan Xun raised an eyebrow. He didn’t anticipate the length Ji Bo would go to for his plan to rebuild his country. The man had put in everything. If the shadowguard hadn’t told the truth under torture, Nan Xun would’ve suspected someone else being involved.
Jun Huang maintained a calm expression, but in her heart she felt cold. She had walked right into Ji Bo’s web of manipulation so long ago without noticing.
She lowered her eyes and looked at Ji Bo’s body. “What do we do with the House of Heavenly Fiends?”
Nan Xun shook his head. “The organization was led by Tianyu’s royal family. As long as you and Jun Hao don’t take over it, the organization will naturally come to its end.”
Jun Huang understood. An organization as old as the House of Heavenly Fiends should’ve disbanded as soon as Tianyu fell. It only persisted because of Ji Bo. It’d long started going downhill. They didn’t need to do anything for it to fall apart.
Nan Jihan walked up to them and threw a brief glance at Nan Xun. Seeing him holding Jun Huang hurt, but he was in no place to say anything. “We’re about done with this place. Should we break into Eastern Wu’s imperial city now?”
“Exactly what I think.” Nan Xun let go of Jun Huang and ordered a shadowguard to take care of her. He went with Nan Jihan and personally led the final charge.
The two of them were unstoppable. It didn’t take long for them to reach the outside of the palace. Those stationed at the imperial city had long grown dissatisfied with the imperial clan. Some even joined Nan Xun’s troops. Nan Xun had ordered his men not to hurt any innocent people, especially not the local residents. Those who had been under the imperial clan’s oppression came to see Northern Qi as a better ruler.
The Eastern Wu palace was in chaos. The puppet Ji Bo had put on the throne decided to abandon the city and flee. Right after he’d packed up, though, Nan Xun had surrounded the city with the troops. The emperor almost fainted.
He was reaping what he sowed. Since the royal clan had never shown him respect and even verbally attacked him when Ji Bo put him in power, he wasn’t satisfied with simply putting them in prison. Once he lost contact with Ji Bo, he had the royal clan members killed and Ji Bo’s men taken out.
Now that an army was coming for him, he didn’t even have someone to talk to. Worse, his eunuch was a fool of a man who tried to flee in fear. He grabbed him.
“Where are you going when I’m still here?” the emperor said through gritted teeth. “If I die, you die with me.”
The eunuch couldn’t argue with that. He was but the emperor’s servant. He had no choice but to follow the man. The emperor let out a long breath and dropped his rucksack to the floor. He looked outside with his back straight.
His officials entered the palace one by one and knelt before him. “Eastern Wu is no more. We’ll only die worthlessly if we resist. We should surrender, Your Majesty.”
The young emperor had always been an incompetent coward. What little courage he’d mustered fizzled out. The officials were right. He could surrender.
He drafted a letter and had it delivered to Nan Xun. In the end, he and the officials were all taken and captured.
The former emperor had been locked in the palace. He heard the commotion, but he didn’t know it was the enemy troops. He made his way to the door in shackles.
“What’s going on?” he asked, raising voice.
There was no response from the eunuch who should’ve been outside. He frowned and listened carefully. From the screams and the sound of blade clashing, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the palace was under attack.
He didn’t know how he should feel, and he didn’t allow himself to think too much. He wanted to live. He wasn’t going to die here. Looking around, his eyes settled on a vase. He used it to hit his iron shackles, but it didn’t do anything.
Nan Xun had led his men into the palace. While his men went through everyone and everything inside, he took Jun Huang to find the man who had once been Eastern Wu’s emperor.
After a while, they spotted a eunuch sneaking around with an armful of things. They exchanged a glance and went up to him.
The eunuch was caught by surprise and dropped his possessions. Jun Huang could tell that many of them belonged to the former emperor. Nan Xun demanded, “Where is he?”
The man had been tasked with keeping an eye on the emperor. When he heard that the enemy force was storming the palace, he hurriedly packed up the items the former emperor had given him in return for his service. The eunuch was scared when he ran into these two unfamiliar, important looking people. Fear made him lose his voice.
Nan Xun didn’t have the patience to wait for the eunuch to speak up. He took out a dagger and threatened the eunuch. Scared witless, the eunuch fainted.