Han Yi Xiao and Bai Jiu safely escorted the Marquis of Ning Nan out of the City of Ning Nan. They hasten their journey to the capital.
Although Han Yi Xiao could sense an unwelcomed presence amongst the crowd in the city, he did not do anything about it because they hadn’t try anything yet. It is safer for the common people for him to sit back for now.
Without the crowd to dampen their journey, Han Yi Xiao orders them to speed up. Half a day later, they reach a huge forest. Seeing the huge sun in the sky and his tired subordinates, he orders them to rest for 2 hours. They would continue the journey afterward.
Bai Jiu looks around, “General, can I go around and look for water sources? Our comrades will need them. It is just too hot, today.”
He nods, “Be careful. Don’t go too far.”
“Yes!” Bai Jiu takes her water jar with her as she walks away.
Han Yi Xiao orders his soldiers to remain vigilant, lest someone tries to snatch their prisoner away.
The soldiers follow his order and remain alert even while resting.
Bai Jiu walks to a clearing and stops next to a creek. “Come on out,” she says to no one in particular.
The sound of wind whirring can be heard and a man in black immediately appears behind her.
She turns around, before she coldly speaks, “Wu Feng, you are my father’s personaly guard. What are you doing here, instead of following him?”
The man called Wu Feng respectfully replies her, “The Third Miss, the Duke Zhen ordered me to send you a letter.” He hands her a letter.
She accepts the letter while mumbling, “What is it that he has to ask you to come all the way over?”
When she finally reads the letter, she turns to Wu Feng in surprise, “Go back to him first. Tell him that I’ve accepted his letter. I will have my own plan.”
“Yes!” Wu Feng’s silhouette immediately disappears.
Bai Jiu takes the letter with her as she sits on a small rock next to the creek. She looks at the simple yet powerful words on the letter, ‘Jiu Jiu, find a chance to kill the Marquis of Ning Nan. Do not let him reach the capital alive.’ Although killing people is nothing new to her, but to ask her to kill someone while being around Han Yi Xiao is truly making things difficult for her. It is not that she is not confident enough, it’s just that she does not know how much this will affect Han Yi Xiao.
His Majesty ordered Han Yi Xiao to escort the Marquis of Ning Nan to the capital. If anything happens to the Marquis on the way, Han Yi Xiao will be punished! If that happens, that basically means that she harmed him. She feels conflicted.
Bai Jiu lifts the letter, her heart a mess. To tell the truth, she understands her dad’s difficulty. He was the one who found the dragon robe in the Marquis’ possession. If they reach the capital and the Marquis is convicted of his crime, then everything will be fine. But if he is acquitted however, it would put her father in a precarious spot. Perhaps, someone will even accuse him of trying to frame a loyal official.
More importantly, her father might indeed be guilty of that. As a daughter, she should be doing her best to relieve his worry, but now, she is in a really tight spot.
While she is busy weighing her options, she can hear the soft sound of footsteps coming over. Although the sound is very subtle, she luckily caught it and immediately hides the letter inside her sleeve.
A deep and magnetic voice can be heard behind her, “Why are you sitting there, General Bai?”
She turns around to face Han Yi Xiao, smiling, “Why are you here, General Han?”
He walks over to her, “You were taking too long to return, I thought you got into trouble, so I went ahead and look for you. Since you found a water source, why didn’t you come back?” He surreptitiously eyes her.
She looks at him guiltily, “I’m sorry, General Han. It’s just that I felt faint. I thought I wanted to throw up, I feel really sick, so I just sat here to rest for a while. Sorry for delaying.”
Han Yi Xiao immediately crouches in front of her in worry when he hears that, “You must have gotten heat stroke. The weather is just too hot and we have been traveling for too long. I have neglected your health, all of you.”
She shakes her head, “Don’t say that, General Han. I am the one who is too frail. I am fine now. I only need a little rest. Don’t worry, General Han.”
“Are you really fine?” Han Yi Xiao is still worried.
She laughs, “Yes, I am fine. I practice martial arts, so this is not a big deal for me. Let me take some water for our comrades first.”
She gets up.
Han Yi Xiao takes the water jar from her, “I’ll get it.” He personally crouches by the creek to fill the jar with water.
A small smile is formed on Bai Jiu’s lips as she looks at Han Yi Xiao who is filing the jar with a serious look on his face. Although he looks cold, he is very warm inside.
Han Yi Xiao and Bai Jiu returns to their troop together. They let the soldiers drink their fill first before resuming the journey.
Bai Jiu takes the jar with her to where the Marquis of Ning Nan is. She glances at Han Yi Xiao who is discussing something with some of the soldiers. She secretly takes out a small paper stuffed with something that she has hidden behind her belt. Just as she is about to pour the content into the jar, Han Yi Xiao suddenly walks over to her, “What are you doing there, General Bai? We’re going to continue the journey. Your horse is at the back, you should go and retrieve it.”
Bai Jiu immediately hides the paper bag. She turns to him while smiling, “General Han, the weather is just too hot. We’ve all drink water except for the Marquis of Ning Nan. Although he is only a prisoner, the Emperor has repeatedly told us to make sure he reach the capital safely. If anything happens to him along the way, how would we answer to His Majesty?”
Han Yi Xiao nods in agreement, “You are right, I have been too negligent. Someone come and give him water.”
“Yes,” another soldier immediately steps forward and hand the Marquis a jar of water.
After watching the Marquis drink the water, Han Yi Xiao approaches the carriage and touches one of it’s iron bar. The bar that he touches sizzles from the heat. “Let him out of the prisoner’s cart.”
The soldiers under him look at him uneasily, “Great General Han, he is a prisoner. It is not right to let him out of the cart. Besides, he knows martial arts. What if he runs?”
Han Yi Xiao appears confident as he says, “This General is sure he will not run away. If he really intends to run, he would not have given himself up so easily back then. Once we reach the next town, prepare a proper carriage for him. He can use it to enter the capital.”
“This—–“ the soldiers exchange looks with one another.
“What are you waiting for? His Majesty ordered us to bring him to the capital alive. If anything happens to him along the way, you will not get out of this alive,” says Han Yi Xiao coldly.
Hearing that, some of the soldiers near him immediately open the carriage and loosen the rope that binds the Marquis. Then, they help him get down the carriage.
They immediately continue the journey by horse.
Bai Jiu who is riding next to Han Yi Xiao looks at him, “General Han, could it be that you believe the Marquis had no intention to rebel? Is that why you treat him so kindly?”
“Correct, this General believe he is innocent,” replies the General in earnest.
“But Duke Zhen found a dragon robe in his residence. If he has no intention to rebel, why would he secretly hide a dragon robe?” asks Bai Jiu.
“Just because there is a dragon robe does not mean that the Marquis is the one who hid it. Mo Chang Xiao, that old fox, will do anything to rid himself of people he does not like. Once we return to the capital, His Majesty will definitely prove the Marquis’ innocence,” replies him in a cold manner.
Bai Jiu knows that he will get upset whenever her father is brought into topic, so she immediately closes the conversation.
The group continues their journey into the night, before resting at a small resthouse in the nearest town. They let the soldiers rest for the night and will continue the journey the next day.
The next morning, the sun is barely up when Han Yi Xiao woke his soldiers to continue their journey. A proper carriage has been prepared for the Marquis of Ning Nan.
The Marquis of Ning Nan is very quiet along the way. He did not say much and merely follows Han Yi Xiao’s arrangement. He rests when asked to rest and continue to journey when Han Yi Xiao deemed it so.
Han Yi Xiao knows that once they are out of this town, there will be no more township or village for a good part of their journey. They will have to spend the night in the wildnerness tonight, which is a good chance for someone else to try and pull something. And so, before the night comes, he picks a small sloped area to be their base camp for the night.
After all, they are out in the open, while their enemies are watching them in the dark. At least, camping in a slope will make it hard for their enemies to hide if they decide to ambush them.
After setting their camp, the soldiers begin making fire. When they are outside, everything is simple. They only need to fill their stomachs, which is easy for martial arts practitioners who know how to hunt.
And so, in the slope, a bunch of tents are erected where the delicious and tempting smell of roasted animals wafts through the air.
Bai Jiu runs out of her tent and gulps when she sees the roasted pheasants and rabbits, “Who caught them? They smell so good!”
Her comrades laugh at her, “Did the worm inside your stomach incite you to come over?”
(TN: They are saying that she is only joining them because she’s hungry.)
She replies him in a straightforward manner. “Of course! It’d be weirder if it doesn’t. It smells so good. Is there anything I can do to help?”
The soldier she has been talking to shakes his head, “No. Just wait. It’s gonna be done, soon.”
She laughs at him before asking, “Where is the Great General?”
“The Great General is uneasy and has decided to check the surrounding to get to know the terrain better,” replies that soldier.
She nods before walking away from the camp, hoping to find Han Yi Xiao.
After walking for a while, she finally discovers Han Yi Xiao. His tall figure stands loftily under the night sky. Although the sky is dark, the moonlight shines on him, making him look even more majestic and mysterious. He looks around the area like a falcon, drinking in every single detail of the terrain.
She walks over to him, “General Han, why didn’t you call for me? You should bring someone with you if you want to patrol.”
He looks away, “Everyone is so tired, they need to rest. We will need to continue the journey tomorrow.”
“You’re travelling with us, and if you don’t feel tired, how could the rest of us do?” she smiles at him brilliantly.
Looking at the way she smiles, Han Yi Xiao suddenly feels very envious of her. Her personality is straight-forward and laid-back. Although she will get serious when it is time to train, she would immediately become buddies with the other soldiers once training is over. She never seems to run out of energy and she is always in a good mood as well, in fact, he barely ever sees her angry. She handles everything in such a carefree way, and her smile has always been this bright.
Noticing the way Han Yi Xiao is looking at her, Bai Jiu lowers her head embarrassedly, “Did this General say anything wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Han Yi Xiao finally notices his transgression. He clears his throat to cover the awkwardness, “I’m sorry. I was thinking about something else. Why aren’t you resting inside your tent?”
She happily replies him, “I thought the sky looks particularly beautiful tonight. It’d be such a waste to spend it cooped up inside a tent. Besides, I can check up on you along the way.”
Han Yi Xiao looks into the distance, “I’m afraid someone is going to ruin the beauty of the night.”
She looks at him, “Did you discover something, General Han?”
He looks away, “Let’s go back. Our dinner should be ready by now.” He turns around and leaves.
Bai Jiu looks around, a certain glint in her eyes, before she goes on to follow Han Yi Xiao.
Dinner is indeed waiting for them when they return.
Han Yi Xiao orders one of his soldiers to send the Marquis some chicken legs and side dishes. Then, he lets them off to rest early. He orders them to remain alert in their rest, and not to sleep too deeply. They are in middle of the wilderness and anything could happen here.
The soldiers go to rest and before long, the night is filled with the sound of crickets chirping.
Bai Jiu lies inside her tent, unable to sleep.
Han Yi Xiao, not daring to be any less vigilant is still wide awake as well.
His tent is erected right next to the Marquis of Ning Nan’s. If there is any wind blowing against the tent’s wall, he would be the first to know.
Just as the soldiers are drifting to sleep, a group of men dressed in black sneaks into the encampment.
Han Yi Xiao who is lying inside his tent while closing his eyes can hear the sound of light footsteps outside. He immediately gets up and runs outside his tent, rushing towards the tent right next to his.
He enters the tent only to find the Marquis of Ning Nan engaging in a fight with two assassins at the same time. He is lucky that the Marquis knows martial arts and is capable of holding them off. That is also why he ordered his people to untie the Marquis, so that he would be able to defend himself should certain people decided to go for him.
Han Yi Xiao looks at the assassins icily, “You people sure are bold. You actually dare to attack the Marquis of Ning Nan. You are looking for death.” He unsheathes his sword and swings it towards the assassins.
Bai Jiu is the first to rush in, after hearing the ruckus. She immediately joins to fight to help Han Yi Xiao.
Once things have reached that stage, the remaining assassins hiding under the slope begin joining their comrades.
The soldiers who have been awakened by all that noise join in on the fight as well.
The sound of battle is unceasing in the middle of the forest. The cold glint of lights from the swords flashes about as men battle against each other.
Inside the Marquis of Ning Nan’s tent, one of the assassins tries to escape. Han Yi Xiao runs after him, but not before telling Bai Jiu, “Protect the Marquis of Ning Nan, General Bai.”
Bai Jiu and the remaining assassin battle it out. The assassin is heavy-handed and wants her life, while Bai Jiu fights him as though she is intending to toy with him.
In the end, the assassin realizes that he cannot beat Bai Jiu and decides to retreat.
Inside the tent, there is only Bai Jiu and the Marquis of Ning Nan now.
Bai Jiu initially wanted to run after the assassin, but she suddenly remembers about her father’s letter, asking her to kill the Marquis of Ning Nan.
A train of thoughts flashes through her mind: if she kills the Marquis of Ning Nan, although that would mean failing Han Yi Xiao’s trust on her, she also knows that he will not really blame her for this. After all, they were ambushed by assassins. In fact, she can just blame it on those assassins. If anything, he would only blame her for her incompetence. And at worst, he would only punish her for failing to do her duties.
Besides, the Emperor’s relationship with Han Yi Xiao is really nice. His Majesty definitely trusts him, he wouldn’t punish him heavily over this matter. All things considered, this is the best chance she’s got to kill the Marquis of Ning Nan.
Her hand tightens around the hilt of her sword, intending to turn around and immediately strike the Marquis without anyone knowing.
“General Bai,” the Marquis of Ning Nan speaks up, just as she is about to end his life.
Her heart skips a beat before she slowly turns around to face him, “Yes, sir?”
The Marquis of Ning Nan looks at what is happening outside in worry, “The fight seems fierce outside. There might be a lot of injuries. I think you should go outside and help the Great General Han.”
She looks at him, “But General Han told me to stay here to protect you.”
The Marquis shakes his head while smiling, “I am already old, living and death barely makes any difference to me. It’s different for General Han and the other soldiers. They are still young and are still at the peak of their lives. Our kingdom needs them, especially General Han. He is trusted by the Emperor and will go on to do even more for His Majesty. He will be sorely needed by the empire and it’s people. He needs to be kept safe. You don’t have to worry about me. I come from a martial arts background. If some assassins do manage to break in, I will be able to fend them off. Hurry and help your comrades.”
Hearing his words, Bai Jiu suddenly loses the intention to kill. He is such a thoughtful Marquis who cares about other people, is he truly guilty of the crimes he has been accused of? Or could it be that it is all her father’s doing?
“Go, General Bai. If Great General Han blames you, I will explain everything to him,” urges the Marquis.
“Then, be careful,” she gives him a long look before rushing out of the tent.
Bai Jiu immediately joins Han Yi Xiao and the rest of the soldiers in the fight.
Han Yi Xiao is furious when he sees her, “What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to stay in the tent with the Marquis?”
Bai Jiu replies him as she fights, “He told me to go. He could take care of himself, he said. He wanted me to help you.”
Han Yi Xiao does not reply her and concentrates on the fight.
When it becomes known that the Marquis of Ning Nan is left without protection, the assassins exchange looks amongst themselves. Two of the assassins made a beeline towards the Marquis’ tent while the rest covers for them.
Realizing what they are about to do, Han Yi Xiao kicks the assassin that he is battling before flying towards the Marquis’ tent as well.
Bai Jiu intends to follow him. However, she has her hands full with all the assassins that are battling her.
The Marquis of Ning Nan fights off the two assassins that went for him before rushing out of his tent.
Han Yi Xiao appears next to him in no time, helping him fight them off.
There are still more assassins hiding in the dark. When they realize that there is only Han Yi Xiao protecting the Marquis, they immediately made their presence known and surround the two people.
Han Yi Xiao would never be intimidated by these few people. His prized sword dances around like a water snake, and in the blink of an eye, a number of assassins fell.
A couple more assassins who are hiding in the dark realize that they are not Han Yi Xiao’s match. In the end, they resort to an underhanded method and takes out their cross-bow.
Taking advantage of Han Yi Xiao’s distraction, they aim an arrow towards him and lets it slice through the air.
Bai Jiu manages to kill two assassins before she could finally join Han Yi Xiao. When she realized what the assassins have done, she rushes towards Han Yi Xiao, “Be careful, General Han!” In the end, the arrow burrows itself on her back.
“General Bai—-“ Han Yi Xiao is furious. He throws his sword in a perfect arc towards the direction of the arrow. The sound of three people screaming follows soon after. The sword returns to him where he gracefully catches it with one hand, and Bai Jiu in the other hand. Everything happened so fast the people have trouble grasping the gravity of the situation.
The assassins realize that they are not going to win tonight. Many of them are seriously injured and if they continue fighting, they might get wiped out. The leader whistles and the assassins immediately disperse.
The soldiers want to go after them, but are stopped by Han Yi Xiao. “Don’t chase after them. Protect the Marquis of Ning Nan.”
The soldiers surround them and eye Bai Jiu’s injury in worry, “How are you doing, General Bai?”
Bai Jiu’s forehead is covered in sweat as she tries to smile at them, “Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Her face is pale and her lips colourless. Even her voice sounds weak.
Han Yi Xiao picks her up, “Protect the Marquis of Ning Nan. The assassins might come back. I will take care of General Bai’s injury.”
“Yes!” the soldiers reply him passionately.
Han Yi Xiao takes Bai Jiu into a tent and lets her sit on a cushion. He lets her rest her forehead on his shoulder as he moves his hand towards her waist to remove her belt.
Bai Jiu immediately stops his hand, “W-What are you doing, General Han?”