Chapter 364: Framing

Phoenix Ascending

The scion didn’t have to go to the frontline himself. He’d be making the orders atop the city wall, and the drummer would pass down his orders. When they ascended to the top, the two armies were already engaged in a battle.

“What happened?” the scion snapped at an officer. “I haven’t made an order. Why did they start fighting already?”

The officer didn’t say anything. He couldn’t talk back to a member of the royal clan no matter how much he wanted to.

The scion looked down at the battlefield and waved the flag to make his orders. When Northern Qi’s army circled their left wing, he should’ve sent the right wing to their aid. However, he had the left wing retreat, hoping to minimize casualties.

He didn’t anticipate that his backing down would boost Northern Qi’s morale. Soon, the left wing was decimated. The right wing was the next to be hit.

Intimidated by Northern Qi’s ferocity, the scion went weak in the knees and fell on his hip, too stunned to do anything.

Ji Bo had been watching him coolly. He wanted to take over, but he didn’t let his concern show. Instead, he focused on studying Nan Xun’s strategies.

The scion had recovered from the failure. He got to his feet and had the troops fan out to circle Northern Qi’s army.

Once Northern Qi’s right wing and central troop had been surrounded, Nan Xun pulled the left wing back. The scion clapped and laughed.

“Isn’t it fun? We sacrificed our left wing but trapped their center and right wing. That’s a good bargain!”

Ji Bo pretended to not hear the scion’s words. The young man spat angrily. When he was about to compliment himself some more, Northern Qi’s center and right wing converged as the left wing abruptly changed direction, trapping Eastern Wu’s soldiers between them and striking from both sides. Eastern Wu’s troops fell into disarray and almost got eliminated completely.

Ji Bo sighed, shaking his head. The scion had yet to recover from the blow on his ego. He’d thought he’d be able to take down Northern Qi’s center, but instead, it was Eastern Wu’s troops that suffered. His throat went tight.

Meanwhile, Jun Huang frowned as she observed the battlefield. “This doesn’t make sense. Intels said that Ji Bo is in the enemy camp. Why would he make such ridiculous decisions? Is he trying to lure us into a false sense of security?”

Nan Xun didn’t say anything. He knew Ji Bo as well as Ji Bo knew him. Past experience had shown him how much of a genius in warfare Ji Bo was. The commander today, though, was a terrible fool.

Their spies soon delivered another message, saying that the one making the orders today was a member of the royal clan whose intelligence and character left something to be desired. Ji Bo had been ordered to step back.

Nan Xun handed the letter to Jun Huang and ordered his men to charge without delay. Northern Qi cut through Eastern Wu’s army like butter and soon took back a number of cities. They even conquered a few towns at the border. Intimidated, the Eastern Wu soldiers lost their calm. They were close to losing.

The scion was overwhelmed with his hatred for Nan Xun. He knew the throne would never be his if he let this go on. He had no choice but to surrender the leadership to Ji Bo.

“Nan Xun is too cunning. If things continue this way, not only will the patriarch blame me, I’ll also blame myself. I order you to take over, Ji Bo. You must drive away the enemy troops.”

He threw the flag at Ji Bo, who let it fall to the ground. The scion went red in fury, but he had no other options. He took a deep breath. “We’re in the same boat. If Eastern Wu loses, most of the blame will go to you, the strategist.”

“I’ve offended you, but I’m sure you aren’t a petty man. You’ll forgive me for my transgression...”

“Sir, the enemy advanced again,” a soldier who had been observing the battlefield ran up to Ji Bo and said, interrupting the scion.

Ji Bo narrowed his eyes and asked for a new flag, turning a blind eye to the scion. “Center, move to the right to delay the enemy’s left wing. Left and right wings fan out and attack from both sides.”

Things changed constantly on the battlefield. Nan Xun soon realized that Ji Bo must have taken over. He ordered his soldiers to pull back to avoid further casualties.

The scion didn’t expect Ji Bo to turn the tide with such a simple order.

Eastern Wu had managed to maintain its face, but the scion began to resent Ji Bo. He knew what the right thing to do was, but refused to offer me guidance. This man has his own agenda.

“You’re indeed clever. It’s Eastern Wu’s fortune to acquire a talent like you.” The scion had been staying with the patriarch for some time. He was shrewd enough to hide his emotions and compliment Ji Bo with a smile.

Ji Bo walked away to order the soldiers to pull back. He didn’t intend to waste his time on the scion. The scion gritted his teeth and huffed. He had a report written and delivered before Ji Bo could it.

He claimed the victory as his and blamed the failures on the officers, saying that they were incompetent and refused to listen to orders.

Hearing the news gave Nan Xun an idea. He sent his lead shadowguard to Eastern Wu’s camp. The shadowguard had disguised himself as an Eastern Wu’s soldier. He laughed and chatted with other soldiers like he belonged there, waiting for an opening.

At night, the camp was silent save for the strange noises coming from the scion’s tent. The shadowguard snuck close when no one was looking. His face flushed red when he realized that the scion was… fornicating.

Afterwards, the scion put on a robe and left his tent to take care of his biological urge. In his rush, he failed to check if anyone was around. He whistled as he urinated.

The shadowguard approached him from behind with a hemp sack and, without giving him any time to react, put it over his head. He beat the scion up.

It was late. Few were still awake. The shadowguard snuck away with the night as his cover afterwards, leaving the unconscious scion on the ground.

The scion hadn’t picked himself up until the day broke. He yanked the hemp sack off his head. Before he could say anything, he realized that he was surrounded by a group of officers. His face turned dark.

“What are you looking at?!” he snapped. “There’s nothing to see here!”

Subjected to the scolding he didn’t deserve, the burly man touched his nose and cleared his throat, pointing at the scion’s open robe. The scion looked down at himself and belatedly realized his waist band had loosened. He wasn’t wearing anything inside. His entire body was exposed for all to see.

His expression darkened further. He was going to hit the burly man who didn’t know when to shut up, but before his punch could land, his wrist was seized by a fair but strong hand.

“When I hear about what happened, I thought you were watching the moon in nature’s embrace like ancient men because the tent was smothering,” said the scholarly man. “However, there was no moon or stars last night. There’s no reason for you to sleep outside. And you look like death.”

He frowned and flung the scion’s hand away.

Enraged, the scion opened his mouth to curse the scholarly man out, which pulled the wound on the corner of his mouth. Pain shot through his face, stoking the fury that had been building up since he was beaten. He sneered. “I knew it. You were the ones who ambushed me! You ungrateful animals! If not for the royal clan, you’re nothing! Not generals, not officers, not even servants who carry my shoes!”

The officers tightened their fists, feeling the urge to punch that haughty look off the young man’s face. However, Ji Bo stepped in and gave the officers a pointed look.

Ji Bo had gained control over the army. Even though he was only a strategist, the others had to be wary of him for the influence he held if nothing else.

“Enough,” Ji Bo commanded. “Don’t you have training to do?”

The officers scattered, leaving Ji Bo and the scion on their own.

The scion scoffed and walked away with a flourish of his sleeves. Ji Bo’s dislike for the scion intensified, but for his goal, he had to suppress the dessents from both the troops and himself.

Everyone in the Northern Qi’s army laughed when they heard about what had happened. Jun Huang and Nan Xun exchanged a smile.

Once they were back in their tent, Nan Xun asked, “How do you know the scion will blame the officers?”

Jun Hung smiled slightly. “He’s a brainless man with nothing but ambition. A simple trick is enough to make him resent the other officers. It’s going to be difficult for Ji Bo to command the troops now.”

Nan Xun nodded. Noting the concerned look on her face, his heart sank. “Are you feeling guilty for plotting against Ji Bo?”

Jun Huang met his gaze and realized what he was worried about. She chuckled and shook her head. “There’s nothing left between us but bad blood. Why would I feel guilty? However, Ji Bo must know we’re behind the incident. He’s going to retaliate somehow.”

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