“We are going to have peace talks?”
“We cannot do that; we cannot accept that outcome. We are warriors. We have our honour and traditions. We will not hand over our land. I would rather die fighting with honour! He has led Her Majesty astray. She trusts Shishiang too much just because he went to the South before! He’s the culprit behind this nation’s downfall! We must punish him! We must help Her Majesty realise the truth. We are no revolting; we are helping Her Majesty eliminate traitors!”
“Long live Your Majesty!”
“Long live Your Majesty!!”
Perhaps Shishiang, who just left, didn’t know, neither did everyone else on the continent or Sisi, but what was meant to be another ordinary night… Actually, this would be more applicable to the ordinary folk. It was another ordinary night… except that it wasn’t.
It was a long night for everyone. I didn’t dare to sleep, not that I could. I fell asleep every now and then, but the ruckus or a nightmare would wake me. Most of the sounds were just my imagination, having said that. Leah had a relaxing night of sleep against me, having said that.
I didn’t know what Shishiang was up to, not that it likely changed my predicament. If he decided to opt for a peace talk, then he would have to come and see me. The only way I could have the initiative in our talks was if he approached me first. In saying that, I was worried about what he said, specifically the lord’s holding the highest authority. If they weren’t on the same page, there was the risk of them trying something on their own. No matter how much influence Shishiang exerted, would he be able to take them all on if he needed to? I didn’t know anything about them, so waiting was my only strategy.
Dawn was surprisingly the quietest time of the day, especially given the type of tavern we were at. The drunk carelessly slept anywhere. Those somewhat sober headed home a while ago. Everyone else had packed up and prepared for work the next day.
Shishiang arranged for Lin Dongqing to stay at the specific tavern to avoid being assassinated, reasoning that it was hard for assassins to carry out their job in such a chaotic environment. Nonetheless, there were no witnesses at that hour or anybody to stop them. Shishiang didn’t organise any bodyguards for Lin Dongqing.
The four cautious assassins squeezed past the bodies all over the ground, aiming to cripple any chances of peace. A door would be considered an obstacle for your every day average man but not them. Upon breaching, there spotted a figure of somebody quietly asleep on the bed. The four viciously plunged their daggers into the individual multiple times. Their target tried to resist but that all ended quickly.
We did it. We did it.
The four stepped back. While panting heavily, the leader pulled off the punctured white blanket full, expecting a present, only to be given a fright. They didn’t kill the man who was tasked with peace talks. Though they only went by a drawing, they were dead certain that their target wasn’t a woman and most definitely not a geisha!
“Damn it. It’s a trap,” or they’d like to have said. Before they could curse, hasty footsteps crushed their excitement. They spun around to see fully-geared soldiers already in their faces. The soldiers didn’t hesitate to apprehend them on the spot.
There was no way Shishiang didn’t care about Lin Dongqing. He knew what Lin Dongqing was thinking judging from his refusal to leave. Though he was frustrated and discontent, he knew he had to keep the bigger picture in mind. He wanted a peace talk, so Lin Dongqing’s safety was his top priority. It was only normal, then, for some people to have the wrong information.
Shishiang knew the man inside would pretend to be dead, so he never had any intention of waiting after knocking: “Mr. Lin, Her Majesty hopes to have a chance to have a peace talk with you. I am here as her representative. Although it is late, we cannot delay any further. We are on the brink of war, Mr. Lin.”
“The war doesn’t have anything to do with me, does it?
Honestly, his statements caught me off guard. I wanted to have peace talks, so how were we on the brink of war? I figured out what he meant the next instant, nevertheless. Shishiang’s haste established that internal strife was brewing; there were lords who planned to take matters into their own hands and ignite a war. Shishiang didn’t want to fight a war on two fronts. By the same token, I didn’t want any part of their internal conflict. What I needed was for Sisi to polish up her army.
If we won the gamble, Sisi’s nation would leap to the moon in one go. If she made the wrong move, she’d have another threat in the South. To compare, think about the Chinese civil war. I didn’t know who to help between Shishiang and his competition.
I answered the question within two seconds. I couldn’t help the competition because, if they waged war to refuse peace talks, then it’d be none of our concern. Sisi wanted to rule this nation, so I had to help Shishiang. He didn’t seem to be trash that couldn’t be helped. All I could do was place my bets on him.
“Leah, Leah, Leah, wake up. Leah.” I tried to shake Leah awake. “Papa needs to get you out of here. You must hold Papa’s hand tightly and be careful. We’re in grave danger right now.”
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