“This is a mutually beneficial deal. If Your Highness says yes, I promise it’s going to make it worthwhile.”
Jun Huang scoffed silently. How naive could this man be? Nan Xun too shared her thoughts, but there were things they could not talk about when they were in enemy’s territory.
Nan Xun pretended to give it some thoughts. “Neither of us is a fool. Don’t try to butter me up with pretty words. We can talk, but determination alone doesn’t guarantee success. I was wondering what your ultimate goal was. Your answer came as a surprise. That is an ambition difficult to achieve. It makes me uneasy.”
“Your Highness is too humble,” the owner insisted. “If Your Highness is willing to help, there’s nothing we cannot achieve.”
Nan Xun turned to Jun Huang, who shook her head. Nan Xun knew that there were both risks and benefits involved. He debated over what to do.
The owner’s eyes darted down. “Your Highness didn’t come to Eastern Wu only to look into the assassins, did you?”
“What do you mean?” Nan Xun asked in feign ignorance.
The owner’s smile deepened. “The emperor of Eastern Wu is watching Northern Qi like a predator, looking for an opening. He must have sent someone to Northern Qi. That was why Your Highness came to Eastern Wu to investigate. Am I right?”
Jun Huang knew the necessity of diplomacy, but she couldn’t stand it from this man. She scoffed. “What if you’re right?” she said mockingly. “You should stop beating around the bush. Tell us what you want before our patience runs out. Once that happens, we won’t be sitting here listening to you talk.”
The owner didn’t get angry. “If Your Highness helps me gain the throne, I will surrender to Northern Qi the cities that are located at the border. And I will pledge my loyalty to Northern Qi so that this constant war between the two countries can cease to happen.”
Jun Huang and Nan Xun didn’t expect him to make such a generous offer. They paused. The owner continued to talk about his plans for the future. He seemed unwilling to stop unless Nan Xun accepted his offer.
Nan Xun met his eyes and admitted, “This is a serious issue. We have to discuss it among ourselves. I hope you understand.”
“Of course. Please do. I’ll go get some tea for you.”
The owner took Nan Xun’s response as a sign of acceptance. He wasn’t worried that Jun Huang and Nan Xun would make troubles for him. He didn’t have any guards on this floor, but everyone on the first floor was his. Besides, he had made enough compromises. Only a fool would not turn him down.
Nan Xun looked out of the door to make sure they were alone before returning to Jun Huang. “What should we do?”
Jun Huang lowered her head and thought for a moment. “He’s obviously not a nobody, but he didn’t seem willing to tell us his identity. Perhaps he will only open up once we agree to his offer. His conditions are very attractive. You might as well accept the deal. He’s going to damage the foundation of Eastern Wu in his pursuit of the throne. Then we can be the fisherman benefitting from the infighting.”
Nan Xun agreed with Jun Huang, but he had to find a way to accept the offer without making the owner suspicious.
Soon, the owner came back with a pot of tea. He turned to Nan Xun and asked, “Have you made a decision?”
“Yes, we can help you,” said Nan Xun. “But how do we know that you’ll make good of your words once you gain the throne?”
“As someone who set out to become the emperor of Eastern Wu, I must act like a leader. Your Highness can trust my words.” He paused for a good moment. In an earnest tone, he continued, “I’m the third prince of Eastern Wu. I’m neither the oldest son, nor the son of the principal wife. No matter how competent I am, it means nothing. My two older brothers have cultivated their own forces already. I only turned to you as a last resort.”
Jun Huang considered him without a word. She could tell that this man wasn’t lying, but her judgement of him did not change. Neither of the three princes of Eastern Wu was man of integrity. This would be a chance to provoke an unrest within Eastern Wu to her benefit.
Nan Xun came to the same conclusion after some contemplation. His silence, however, made the owner think that Nan Xun was still not convinced of his identity. He quickly took out a token that could prove who he was. “I wasn’t trying to hide my identity from Your Highness, but it is a risk to say it out loud. Since Your Highness has agreed to offer your support, I should be honest with you. Please forgive me for my undue caution.”
“It’s fine,” said Nan Xun. “What’s your plan at the time being? What do you need from me?”
“I need some time,” said the owner. “Your Highness is going to stay in Eastern Wu for a while, are you not? I’ll come up with some plans as soon as possible. Then we can talk in detail. What does Your Highness think?”
Nan Xun nodded. “Then I’ll leave it in your hand. It’s getting dark. We’ll take our leave.”
The owner stood up to walk them out, but stopped at the top of the stairs to avoid drawing too much attention. Jun Huang and Nan Xun walked away.
They realized that they were followed as soon as they left the casino. They shared a knowing look. Jun Huang had progressed considerably in her martial arts training. She was capable of protecting herself. Nan Xun therefore wasn’t as worried that Jun Huang would get hurt as he used to be, and he no longer considered retreating their best option. They were now in Eastern Wu. It would be a blow to Northern Qi’s pride if they kept running away.
Jun Huang took a step closer to Nan Xun and muttered under her breath, “There’s an alleyway right ahead. If we don’t deal with these people now, they will come at us again. We might as well give them a memorable welcome.”
Nan Xun threw a glance at the men behind them. “Alright. But be careful. Stick close to me.”
Jun Huang nodded. They quickend their pace. The men following them thought that Jun Huang and Nan Xun were going to escape. They chased after them.
When they reached the alleyway, however, Jun Huang and Nan Xun came to a halt. The leader of the group didn’t want to wait, lest something happen to disrupt their mission. He ordered his men to surround Jun Huang and Nan Xun to stop them from fleeing.
Nan Xun looked around at their enemies with dark eyes. There were a lot of them. If they came at him with reckless abandon, he couldn’t say for sure that they wouldn’t win.
Jun Huang believed it was right to show your enemies manners before a fight broke out. Before she could say anything, however, a hidden weapon came at her face fast enough to split the air. Her pupils contracted as she dodged the hidden weapon. She called out for Nan Xun and drew out her sword to attack the man nearest to her.
Nan Xun didn’t hesitate before unsheathing his weapon and joined in the fight.
He soon realized that he and Jun Huang had overestimated these men. These men did have a good level of mastery in martial arts, but they were inexperienced. If there had not been so many of them, they would lose immediately.
The group of men didn’t expect Jun Huang and Nan Xun to be so strong. They backed away again and again, but none of them was willing to retreat. It made Jun Huang and Nan Xun wary of possible ambush.
Jun Huang had improved considerably since the last time she and Nan Xun were attacked. Her movement was swift as she charged. Before her foe could react, her blade had cut into his flesh and taken his life. He collapsed to the ground after taking his last breath.
Nan Xun was like a demigod from hell. His eyes were as cold as those of a poltergeist. Anyone would be transfixed by the flash of blood in his eyes as soon as they met Nan Xun’s gaze. Before they realized it, Nan Xun’s long sword would have punctured their body. Blood gushed out of the wound as the heart stopped beating. The reflection of the blade illuminated the rain of blood Nan Xun brought about. His black iron long sword was terrifying under the silver moon. It was chilling to think about the lives the blade had taken.
Nan Xun’s expression was calm. The only thing different from his usual look were his colder eyes. The black robe he wore made him look taller and stronger. The difference in power between him and the men surrounding him was akin to the distance between the sky and the earth. Jun Huang snuck glances at him as she fought. Nan Xun’s robe danced and fluttered in the wind as he moved. He was still as awe-inspiring as a god. Her heart fluttered.
The moment of distraction caused a fracture in her guard. Before her foe’s blade could cut open her wrist, Nan Xun flew to her side and kicked the man away. He pulled her behind him.
“You good?” Nan Xun asked worriedly. The reflection of the blade was blinding. He could not stand seeing Jun Huang get hurt. He would hate it if Jun Huang got hurt because of him.
Jun Huang took a deep breath and nodded. Another man came at them with his long sword. Jun Huang was going to push Nan Xun away, but Nan Xun had felt the force of the attack before she did. He grabbed Jun Huang’s hand to stop her from pushing him away and turned around to parry the attack. He then kicked the man in his torso, sending him flying.
Nan Xun was hypervigilant. He must not let his guard down. He would take care of these men as quickly as he could. This was Eastern Wu after all. If their fight attracted the attention of the guards, it would be a mess. He had to keep his track hidden. He started attacking the men with all he could.
Jun Huang could tell what he was thinking. She pushed aside her hesitation and focused on killing the enemies with fatal hits.
The men in black had felt the change. They whispered among themselves and decided to retreat. Jun Huang, however, would not let them go. She huffed and stepped on the wall to leap to the other side of the alley, blocking the men’s escape route. She stared at the men. There was a flash of panic in their eyes.
“You’ve come all this way. We’re not letting you go easily.”