Yu Zhen watched as the carriage disappeared into the distance. His lips twitched when he saw her hair blowing out of the carriage, her face a second from peeking out, but she was evidently dragged back inside.
It was amusing to him. He wondered if she knew, that even if he returned to the Palace, that a duel would happen regardless of the circumstances. She was too foolish to think anything could prevent the inevitable from occurring between him and Wen Jinkai. But perhaps, it was this ignorance that made her adorable. He could not tell.
"Let's get the duel over with," Yu Zhen said the second the carriage was fully gone from his line of sight. He didn't wait for Wen Jinkai to respond before unsheathing his sword.
"Well?" Yu Zhen asked, turning to face Wen Jinkai with his sword drawn and ready. He did not care that his opponent was injured on his dominant hand. He only cared about getting rid of this pestering obstacle that was standing in the way of obtaining Li Xueyue.
"Hah…" Wen Jinkai shook his head. "Every time we meet, you pretend to be a gentleman." He slid his sword out of the sheath, tossing the casing to the ground. "But who would've thought you were a soldier without honor?"
Yu Zhen simply shrugged. "Does playing fair win you wars?"
Wen Jinkai took a step forward. "No, but a fair fight brings satisfaction."
"Too bad I'll feel more satisfaction cutting your dominant hand off." Yu Zhen let out a small laugh filled with more crazy than anyone would've imagined.
Wen Jinkai silently cursed inside of his head. He could barely feel his fingertips on his bleeding hand. It was turning blue by the second and if it went untreated, he'd have to decapitate it.
Yu Zhen took a step closer, easily twirling the sword in his hand as if it weighed nothing. But that was the only warning the shadow guards needed before they emerged from every corner, surrounding them. It was an ambush on all sides.
Loud clicks could be heard as soldiers drew their swords from the metal scabbard before tossing it onto the ground without hesitation. They surrounded Yu Zhen, swords drawn, tips pointed towards him.
Yu Zhen did not come unguarded either. His soldiers instantly made their presence known exactly at the same time when Wen Jinkai's own men came forward. It was a rough standoff, weapons drawn on all sides, and a single action was enough to spark a fight.
"I commend your loyal dogs," Yu Zhen mused, nodding in satisfaction. "Do you lack the confidence to fight me one-on-one?"
"We would never disrespect our Commander as such," a man spoke up, his face hidden by the black mask covering up to his nose, revealing nothing but his eyes. "We simply acted to prevent this unfair fight."
Yu Zhen raised a brow. "Since when do dogs bark before their master speaks?"
The presumed leader of the shadow guards grounded his teeth, but chose to not respond. These Hanjian men were sneaky. They preached of honor and justice, but at any given chance, would go against their morals. How pathetic of them to not uphold their own ethic code.
"Fall back, this is my fight," Wen Jinkai snarled, taking a step forward even when he knew this was a disadvantageous fight, but that was what made it so thrilling. If he won this with a non-dominant arm and a bleeding hand, what would that say about Hanjian's most prized Commander?
Yu Zhen's defeat would be the talk of the town.
The leader exchanged wary glances with their soldiers, but they could not disobey their Master. Slowly, they began to tuck their swords back, submitting to their Commander. They did not dare to question his orders.
Yu Zhen's eyes flickered with amusement at the blatant display of loyalty. It was all too humorous to him how touching but stupid this scene was. These men would rather obey their Master than save him from engaging in a disadvantageous battle. What a commendable scene.
"How touching this moment is." Yu Zhen let out a wistful sigh. "As a reward, I'll spare you of tonight's defeat," he mused, slipping his sword back into his sheath.
Wen Jinkai narrowed his gaze. "Scared of losing this battle?"
"No, but I'm sure you're scared of losing that arm." Yu Zhen nodded to Wen Jinkai's limp hand.
"Though, I do pity you." Yu Zhen chuckled. "There will be no one to weep for your loss."
Wen Jinkai's grip tightened on his sword. "Draw your weapon you coward."
"You should value yourself above your pride." Yu Zhen clicked his tongue. "If you'd like a duel, I'm always open to one."
"I'd like one here."
"Preferably, I like to duel capable men. Or else, it'll be a waste of time." Yu Zhen simply shrugged. He was usually not this forgiving, but for the sake of his ray of Sunshine, he'll subdue himself. She didn't want a public bloodbath, and he'll honor that wish.
Wen Jinkai grounded his teeth. "How many times are you going to hint of a duel and then back down like a cuckold coward?"
Yu Zhen didn't even blink at the insult. He merely cast Wen Jinkai a sympathetic gaze. "I'm sure you're eager to stroke your ego, since that's the only thing large about you, but many of us have honor to maintain."
Yu Zhen snapped his finger and in an instant, his men relaxed. They didn't need commands to know what to do. His soldiers began to slip their weapons back into place, as if nothing had happened.
Yu Zhen nodded to the mess in the restaurant. Chairs were flipped over and tables were knocked out of the way when soldiers from both sides barged in. His men didn't need to be told twice, they began to clean up the mess.
"You speak of honor, yet you requested a duel and backed down from it. I have never seen a more pathetic attempt at playing hero." Wen Jinkai shook his head in disgust.
Yu Zhen didn't reply. He didn't have to. His silence would speak for him.
Wen Jinkai narrowed his eyes. He motioned for his men to begin cleaning up as well. As much as he didn't care about maintaining his reputation, he did care about the lives of the people affected by his actions. They didn't deserve to be caught up in all of this chaos.
The leader of his shadow guards, a tall and burly man, turned to the manager of the restaurant who had cowered back when the entire scene unfolded.
Wen Jinkai simply nodded and that was the only indication the leader needed to move forward with a bag of money.
"This should pay for the broken decoration and chairs," the leader said as he dropped the bag into the owner's hands.
The owner hesitantly nodded, retracting himself behind the counter. He warily watched as these armed men began to tidy up the mess they created. They worked efficiently, quietly, and in less than a few minutes, everything was settled.
Yu Zhen decided he had better places to be than waste his time here. He didn't care who was watching him, or whispering about the commotion that unfolded inside of the restaurant. He simply slipped outside, ignoring the small group of people gathered outside who were murmuring about what had happened.
Yu Zhen made up his mind right then and there. His last mission before departing from Wuyi would be to slay Wen Jinkai and take his head back to Hanjian as a trophy. If he would depart from Wuyi, at the least, he should get rid of the man pestering his woman.
But then something else came to mind, an even better idea. A plan that would kill two birds with one stone.
A sinister, twisted smile crept to his face. What a great idea it would be, if he could eliminate all of his worries in Wuyi.
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