The battle took place on Xi River. In the first battle, Ning Mingjie and Ning Yuxuan split the army into two parts and caught Zhangjun unprepared. The enemy's side lost five hundred people. It could be considered a minor victory. However, when Ning Mingjie was writing the battle report, he said the enemy had lost five thousand soldiers, and the army had passed through Xi River. Only the general and assistant general knew what was written in this report. The two cousins had a tacit understanding.
When the emperor received this report, he was very pleased. He had originally been feeling annoyed that Ning Mingjie had ignored his imperial edict four times, but he let bygones be bygones due to this swift and major victory. The emperor even personally prodded the rear end part of the supply chain to transport more grain in order to avoid the soldiers not having enough food.
However, the cost of grain hadn't gone down at all during this period. Yan Buba was helping Ji Man by manipulating the amount of grain that entered the capital. Any excess of grain would be sent to Zhangjun. Because the remaining supply was less than the demand, the unit price of rice had risen to sixteen silver coins.
The imperial court had set out an order to purchase two and a half bushel of grain at ten silver coins, so Yan Buba secretly purchased grain at a price of thirteen silver coins per two and a half bushel of rice. Since the tenant farmers no longer had grain to sell, the imperial court could only purchase the grain from the rice merchants. As a result, Yan Buba ended up being imprisoned again in the imperial prison. He wouldn't come to an agreement with imperial court over the price of the grain.
Once Yan Buba was arrested, Ji Man wrote letters to all of the rice merchants in the capital to instigate them by saying that the imperial court was using Yan Buba as an example to scare them into obedience. If they didn't respond now as a group, they might not even be able to protect themselves and their families’ lives, much less earn a profit. How can they care about selling grain once that happened?
As a result, one by one, the rice merchants fled the capital, and there was no one left to sell or buy grain from. Even the families of officials, who had money, weren't able to eat much good rice. Faced with layer upon layer of pressure, the officials once again released Yan Buba. With a body full of injuries, Yan Buba went straight to calculating how much additional salary he should demand from his boss.
Watching the distant battlefield from a bystander's detached point of view, Ji Man thought this war was going very strangely. Why weren't they fighting? There wasn't a trace of tension in Zhangjun. There were even water lanterns being released in the Xi River in the evening. How was this the ambience of war? It was clearly more like people playing house.
However, Zhangjun Prince didn't show any signs of relaxing. He was reaching out to various titled princes and his former subordinates while seriously deploying troops to battle with Ning Mingjie.
Ji Man had received grand praise from Zhao Zhe for her assistance in causing a complete mess in the capital. Since that time, Zhao Zhe had treated her a trusted confidant. Wherever he went, he would bring her along. He would even occasionally jokingly ask her questions like, "Do you remember what this prince had said to you back then?"
What he had said back then? Zhao Zhe has said plenty of things to her. How was she supposed to know what he was referring to? She smiled to indicate for him to finish his thought, but Zhao Zhe meaningfully turned his head away and left her guessing as if this was a joke to him.
However, since he had left the logistics of supplying food to her, Ji Man could be considered quite busy each day. Once she got busy, it wasn't easy to think about more complicated things.
The past few months of war had gone by in a flash. Neither side had suffered significant casualties. Most of the times, the battles would just cut off, and each side would stay on their side of the river to cook and barbecue. It was just like a camping trip.
After three months of this, Ji Man finally found out why this war had been going about so calmly.
Zhao Zhe brought her along to Tianxian Building to see an important guest. When the doors to side room was pushed open, Ji Man saw Marquis Moyu。
He was the same as before, but there wasn't much of a smile on his face. When he saw her, he slightly froze in surprise, and his eyes brightened a bit. “Mister Ji."
It really had been three months since they last saw each other. Ji Man awkwardly smiled and obediently stayed behind Zhao Zhe.
As soon as Zhao Zhe entered the room, he teased, "Look at you. You didn't see me but saw Mister Ji first. Marquis, your eyes can see quite far."
These two people, they had already been colluding?! Ji Man was shocked. When had this happened? Why hadn't she noticed this at all?
Slightly annoyed, Marquis Moyu looked away. He was still feeling angry about last time. Although he had been the one testing her last time, she truly showed no signs of holding him in her heart. Was his life that worthless to her? If he was a bit more foolish and had genuinely placed his life in her hands, would she have still so easily betrayed him?
Ning Yuxuan sat down on the side and lightly replied, "Your Highness, please excuse this one. This one just called out in curiosity because it was surprising to see that Mister Ji's face hasn't changed at all."
Zhao Zhe raised his eyebrows. He turned his head back and glanced at Ji Man before nodding. "That's certainly true. It probably feels really uncomfortable always having to wear that mask, Sangyu?"
It had already been a long time ago since someone had last called her Sangyu. Ji Man slightly froze in surprise. It took a long time for her to return to her senses. She chuckled and said, "It's fine once this one got used to it. Thank you for your concern, Your Highness."
Zhao Zhe glanced at Ning Yuxuan, then he looked at her again and said, "It won't be long. The road between Zhangjun and the capital is almost done, and that path to the capital will be unimpeded. The current emperor is fatuous and tyrannical. He had harmed his own henchmen and falsely accused his faithful officials. When this prince enters the capital, this prince will return justice to Nie Clan, and you can return to living with your original identity, Sangyu."
Ji Man stood up and deeply saluted him. "Thank you, Your Highness."
Zhao Zhe looked at Ning Yuxuan again before smiling and saying, “Marquis, you were probably feeling extremely helpless back when you were forced to divorce Sangyu. Once our goal is completed, this prince will personally return the two of you back to your happy marriage. What do you think?"
Ji Man froze in surprise, but Ning Yuxuan slightly smiled and said, "Thank you, this one is deeply honored by your kindness, Your Highness."
"Marquis, you're probably in a dilemma over your heir being in the palace." Zhao Zhe sighed. "In the end, second imperial brother isn't very sensible. How could he use your son's life to threaten you?"