Chapter 53: Taken
Nights like this brought up memories of her own country. Jun Huang lowered her eyes. The breeze cleared her head a little. Her stomach, however, started aching.
Nan Jihan saw Jun Huang leaving the manor. With a crooked smile, he took his leave as well without anyone noticing and returned to the relay station.
Inside the guest room were Nan Jihan's people. Their eyes were as cold as those of the soul-sucking wraiths that plagued the night. They were experts in putting people to an eternal slumber.
"I told you to stay hidden and keep watch," Nan Jihan said, crouching down. "You do remember what Feng Baiyu looks like, don't you? Did you see where he went?" The window was left open. The wind made the candlelight waver. It would be put out any moment.
One of the men nodded in the shadow. "This servant remembers what he looks like. We will not let Your Highness down. He will be delivered to you straight away."
Nan Jihan twisted his lips into a cold smile, his eyes dark. "Feng Baiyu is a rare talent. If he surrenders himself to me, I will reward you handsomely. Remember, do not hurt him. If he's harmed in any way, you'll get your punishment."
"Don't worry, Your Highness. We know what we're doing."
They left the room silently. The night would not be a peaceful one. Nan Jihan sat at his desk, his pale fingers wrapping around the teacup. There was a devilish smile at his lips. A cunning glint flashed through his eyes.
Jun Huang didn't know why she wanted to get away from the bustling and prosperous areas of the city, but she did. When she came to her senses, she was in the middle of nowhere, far away from the main streets. She didn't know where she was. And there wasn't anyone around for her to ask for direction. She cursed herself for being careless.
Her stomach started cramping again. Her face went pale.
She supported herself against a pillar. Her forehead was covered in cold sweat. She didn't have time to care about her condition, however; she could hear faint footsteps coming towards her.
She frowned. Showing up at this time of day in a place like this – must be someone with malicious intent. Taking a deep breath, she straightened up and stabbed her own wrist with a silver needle to make herself focus.
Her vision cleared up. A group of men dressed in black appeared before her. There was an intimidating aura around every one of them.
Jun Huang forced herself to calm down. "Who are you?"
"These lowly men are here to invite the gentleman to be our guest," said the leader.
"This gentleman didn't know this was the way you invited people." Jun Huang scoffed. "This is the imperial city. Don't think about trying anything untowards. Otherwise you will make trouble for your employer. He won't be happy."
"If the gentleman refused to come peacefully, we will have no choice but to do this the hard way. We will make sure to make amends to you in the future." The leader raised his sword, and the other men unsheathed their weapons as well. They closed in on her.
The night wind chilled her to the bone, making the tail of Jun Huang's clothes flutter. Her eyes had always been beautiful. At this moment, they shone so brightly that they were even more brilliant than the fine clothes she was wearing.
There was a flash of silver light. Then a couple of the men fell down holding their necks. They went silent after only a few seconds of struggling, and their body went still. Thick blood started to pour out from their orifices. It was a horrifying sight.
The leader's slanted eyes went cold. "I thought the gentleman was supposed to be honorable. To think you're capable of such atrocities."
"Ha! There's no place for honor in dealing with people like you." Jun Huang didn't care about what he said. Her tone was chilling.
The men were experienced, and there was strength in numbers. They thought this was all Jun Huang could do and didn't take her that seriously. In their mind, there was nothing more important than completing their mission.
Jun Huang stood alone in the dark. Her back was to the empty street. Above her was the pitch-black sky. She laughed and took her foldable fan in her hand. A flip of her wrist and it whipped opened. She was a commanding presence. Her eyes were as cold as winter sun. She didn't need a sword to be threatening.
With someone like him at my side, Southern Mu will be prosperous. The leader remembered what Nan Jihan said to him. He had been to hell and back for Nan Jiahn; he knew the prince valued talents greatly. This was the first time Nan Jihan showed such eagerness to get someone, however. He would do all he could to deliver Jun Huang to his prince.
When they were ready for another round of attack, Jun Huang let out a harsh laugh. In the dark, the sound couldn't be more disturbing. The men shared a look, worried that Jun Huang would make a killing move again.
"You're not from Northern Qi, are you?" Jun Huang asked, raising an eyebrow. "I can tell from your accent."
The leader narrowed his eyes. What is this man planning? Jun Huang was no easy prey. There really was no place for honor in this fight. He raised his sword and attacked Jun Huang without another word.
Jun Huang dodged the attack only barely. She was going to buy herself sometime and waited for someone to pass through. These men wouldn't dare to do anything when there was a witness. Her attackers, however, didn't give her any chance and charged at her.
"Don't think about talking yourself out of this, sir. Forgive us lowly men for doing this." The leader showered her with endless attacks. He made sure to only use the back of his sword; Nan Jihan wanted Jun Huang alive and well.
Jun Huang parried the sword with her fan, taking one step back after another. The fan almost flew out of her hand due to the sheer force of the hits. She took a deep breath to suppress the pain in her stomach and temples and leveled the man with a cold stare.
Overwhelmed with the urge to kill, she took out a bottle of poison. The cold ceramic cleared her head a little. She almost dropped the bottle because of how cold it was.
"Shield!" the leader exclaimed immediately when he saw the bottle in her hand.
The men took off the arm shield they had on their backs and put it on, making a circle around her.
"Hu! Hah!" They hit the shields with their swords as they tightened the circle. There was an ease to their coordinated movement.
Jun Huang narrowed her eyes. These man were well-trained. They were no ordinary assassins or bandits. They also weren't from around here. Then they could only be –
The leader gestured at the other men. "Go," he said in a low voice.
Every man charged at her with their shields raised. Jun Huang couldn't possibly defeat all of them on her own. She threw the bottle at her feat. Purple smoke went up in the air and covered the whole area.
"Watch out! It may be poisonous!" someone shouted, but he was too late. Some of the men collapsed from inhaling the smoke. The battle array was broken.
When the remaining attackers regained their focus again, Jun Huang was no longer at the center of the circle. "Damn, he's gone!"
The leader huffed. "He's smart. Reel in the fishing net!"
Large fishing nets were reeled in from both sides. Jun Huang was going to escape during the chaos, but she was caught before she could. There was no way for her to escape now.
Jun Huang stepped back until she hit the wall. She scowled at the men and huffed. She was calm despite how furious she appeared to be. "Hidden arrows are difficult to dodge. You ambushed me with a large group of people, and still you made use of dirty tricks like this. Never have I met anyone so shameless. You are a poor excuse of a man."
"The gentleman doesn't need to talk like this. We're only following orders."
"If you feel like you're doing the right thing, why don't you have a duel with me?"
The leader smiled. He knew the extent to Jun Huang's training from their fight earlier. Jun Huang didn't stand a chance. "Well then, this lowly man will make my move." He threw out a punch. Jun Huang observed him closely and tried her best to fight back with what she had learned from Nan Xun.
There was a difference between men and women, however. No matter how agile Jun Huang was, she was still a woman. Besides, she wasn't that experienced a fighter. How could she possibly defeat a well-trained general? In no time, she fell to a disadvantage. It was all she could do to dodge the blow and back away.
The poison in her system reared its ugly head. Jun Huang became paler and paler. Cold sweats broke from her forehead and streaked down her face. She wiped away the sweat with a hand and blocked the man's punches with the other.
It didn't take long for Jun Huang to show a weakness in her stance. The man hit her in the stomach without hesitation. Jun Huang knocked against the grey wall behind her and grimaced. There was blood coming out of her throat and she forced it down, staring at the men surrounding her.
The poison rushed through her body. Even though she had tried to suppress it with her needles as soon as she could, she still spat out a mouthful of blood. The crimson red glowed faintly under the moonlight. The men picked her up.
"You two clean up the mess here," the leader said.
The two men nodded. They couldn't remove the blood completely, however. They gave up and made their escape.
Not long after, a night watchman walked past this area. He dropped his gong at the sight of the blood stain. He looked around in fear, but he found no victims and there was no sign of a fight. He panicked and bolted away.
When Jun Huang came to, she was in a run down room. She was tied to a chair, immobilized. There wasn't anyone around. Instinctively, however, she knew there were many pairs of eyes watching her.
She took a deep breath. Her stomach was still hurting, but the poison in her body was suppressed for the time being. She considered her environment with clear eyes.
Who could be behind this, she wondered, keeping herself calm. Ah, there's really only one suspect. It must be him.