After Zhang and Ai arrived at the barracks they were assigned to in Red Thorn City, they were lead into a large hall that was lined with beds placed one after the other.
“We’ll be taking those two beds.” Ai said as she pointed two beds that were located at the far end of the room in a corner. She, of course, would sleep on the bed located at the very end of the row while Zhang slept in the bed beside it, making it so that no other man would sleep near her. As a further precaution, a few of Zhang’s soldiers who had also managed to blend into the Dark Legion would occupy the next few beds near Zhang and Ai’s beds also.
Without having to explain, it was obvious as to why Zhang and Ai had made such bed arrangements.
“All of you stay on your best behavior, young master Tang Wei will be arriving here shortly for an inspection, it would be in your best interest not to offend the son of our host.” One of the captains in the Dark Legion said before exiting the hall.
The moment their captain left the hall the soldiers, with Zhang and Ai included, huddled up and began gossiping with one another.
“Whose Young Master Tang Wei?” Zhang asked.
“This your first time out of the province Ming?” Someone asked Zhang.
“Yes, I joined the legion not too long ago.” Zhang said while scratching his head and grinning.
“Quit pestering the kid and answer his question.” A middle-aged bearded man said as he slapped the man who was speaking to Zhang in the back.
“It just like you Wang Yong to stick up for the new guy.” The man who got slapped in the back said with a chuckle.
“From what I heard, young master Tang Wei is the bastard son of the lord of the Red Thorn City. But thanks to his quick wits and prowess in battle, his father had named him as the next lord of the province, disregarding his older brothers claim.”
“I also heard that his brother hates his guts because he was proclaimed the next provincial lord. Also that the current provincial lord is about to go pay the Yama a visit due to some strange illness that he had gotten.” Someone else said.
“Once their old man hits the dust I bet all sorts of problems will occur here. I hope we don’t get dragged into things…” The middle-aged man who was named Wang Yong said with a sigh.
“Interesting.” Ai mumbled as she stood beside Zhang.
While everyone was worried about the possibility of the Dark Legion and themselves being caught up in a civil war after Red Thorn City’s lord passes away while the forces of Aurora were steadily moving south. Zhang was delighted to hear this piece of news.
If civil war broke out in the Red Thorn Province, then the Southern Alliance would not be able to reinforce the province’s acting as frontlines any longer and without reinforcements, these provinces would fall to the forces of Aurora in a matter of weeks of not days.
“Maybe I should send the good lord on his trip early.” Zhang thought.
“But first, I need to figure out which of his two sons is the better one to support. Since relative to the previous lord is always more accepted by the people.” He also though once the thought of assassinating Red Thorn City’s lord popped up in his mind.
However, there was one problem to Zhang’s thought. He did not know the layout of Red Thorn City’s provincial lord’s mansion and did not know where the provincial lord resides in the mansion.
Although it is fairly simple to guess where the provincial lord’s courtyard is, there is always the likelihood that he does not reside in his courtyard but somewhere else.
“What kind of illness does the provincial lord have?” Zhang asked the other soldiers as a thought appeared in his head.
“I hear that after sustaining a wound on a hunting trip, Red Thorn City’s lord came down with a fever and before long hundreds of sores appeared on his body. I also heard that anyone who comes in contact with him soon receive the same illness. But of course, these are all rumors that I’ve heard.” Someone said.
“Is that so.” Zhang muttered as he began to formulate a plan in his mind.
Roughly an hour later the new of young master Tang Wei’s arrival reached Zhang’s ears and this his plan began. Withdrawing a tiny vial from his interspatial ring and dipping a small needle, made by condensing essence with the power of the Underworld Heart, into it when no one was looking, Zhang waited for Tang Wei.
This vial, of course, was something that he had gotten off of Lingqi and was capable of making someone fall incredibly ill. Their skin would turn purple as reddish blisters would begin to form on their body while their mouths would foam.
“The young master is coming, everyone getting ready.” Someone said, signaling for all of the soldiers to form two neat rows of soldiers standing beside their beds.
Before long, a young man dressed in white robes with the air of a scholar entered the room with a small group of guards around him.
“He should be Tang Wei.” Zhang thought as his eyes glinted and with a flick of the finger launched the poison coated needle toward a soldier standing not too far from him.
Although the thought of poisoning Tang Wei had come into mind, Zhang decided not to do so because of the likelihood of someone noticing any traces left behind by the needle. He could have also poisoned one of his soldiers mixed into the Dark Legion but by doing so he may attract too much attention to his own men and risk being discovered by the enemy.
Once the needle shot out of Zhang’s hand, it pierced through the air and made a small cut across the right shoulder of its target before dispersing into the air. To the man who was now infected by Lingqi’s deadly poison, the needle had felt like a mosquito bit.
“I would like to welcome you all for coming to our fine city.” Tang Wei said as he walked down the aisle of soldiers. As the neared where Zhang and Ai were, the soldier who had been infected by the poison began to sweat and his body began to shake convulse uncontrollably.
“You there, what are you doing!?” A captain within the Dark Legion said as he caught site of one of his men acting strangely in front of an honored guest.
Upon catching Tang Wei’s attention, the man stumbled over onto the ground. Before long his skin began to turn purplish which served to further draw everyone’s attention.
“What’s wrong with him!?”
“Someone get a doctor!?”
A mixture of yells and cries broke out within the large hall.
Due to one of their own falling over, the soldiers and officers of the Dark Legion within the room disregarded Tang Wei and gathered around their comrade.
“Now to create a bigger commotion.” Zhang thought as he shot a few more poison-laced needles at a few more unsuspecting people.
Before like about a dozen or so people had fallen over and the room was filled with hysteria.
“Whatever is happening seems to be highly contagious, let’s all get out of here!” Ai yelled, adding new to the chaos.
“No! No one is to leave this room! We can’t risk infecting any more people!” Tang Wei said.
“Seal the gates! No one is permitted to leave or I’ll have them hung above the city walls!” He added.
“Everyone help me lay the I’ll onto beds! So I can have a look at them, I might be able to help them.” Zhang yelled as he pushed his way through the crowd of soldiers.
Once the dozen or so ill people were each laid atop a bed, Zhang walked up to the first infected person and began to pretend to examine them.
“Eyes dilated, high fever, red blisters, and purplish skin.” Zhang mumbled as he looked at the men he poisoned one after the other.
“Someone give me a brush, some paper, and ink.” Zhang said.
“You heard they man! Give him the things he asked for.” Tang Wei said with a commanding tone.
“Ask for anything you need; lives are at stake here.” Tang Wei said as he arrived behind Zhang.
After receiving the things, he asked for, Zhang wrote down a large variety of herbs, many of which he could use to concoct some simple poisons that Lingqi had shown him.
Upon receiving Zhang’s list, a soldier slipped it under the door to the people who were standing guard outside. Since no one was permitted to leave the room due to fear of spreading whatever was ailing the ill.
Once he relieved the variety herbs and various things arrived, Zhang was given space to concoct medicine. Of course, he already had the antidote to the poison so Zhang simply began making a variety of poisons and medicines that he figured would be useful to further his plans.
Also, since he had to put up a show, he might as well go through all of the stops.
While no one was looking he withdrew a small green vial from his interspatial ring and mixed it with some water.
“Brother Shu Ai I’ll be needing some help.” Zhang called out to Ai who had been simply observing as a part of the crowd.
Once Ai joined him, Zhang handed her the antidote to the poison that everyone was infected with while he continued to make more poisons and medicines.
It was not until roughly an hour passed did Zhang and Ai stop “working”.
“All done!” Zhang said in a loud voice as he and Ai walked over to where their patients were lying with two trays filled with bowls of medicine.
After all of the patients were given the antidote to the poison their symptoms subsided almost instantly, making everyone present look in awe.
“If everyone would form a line, I’ll check to see if any of you have caught the strange disease.” Zhang said.
Without having to say another word, the hundred or so people within the hall all lined up to be examined. Strangely for someone of his status, Tang Wei had let everyone else be examined before himself.
“Alright, it seems no one else has caught the illness. If anyone happens to show symptoms of the illness, then place seclude them from everyone else and alert me.” Zhang said with a smile after he took a look at Tang Wei.
Apart from the dozen or so people who had been infected by Lingqi’s poison and were laying in their beds resting after taking the antidote, everyone else was free to go. Of the previously infected, nine were regular soldiers while the remaining three were all captains or lieutenants in the Dark Legion. Zhang figured having them owe him a favor would come in handy later on.
“Meals should have been already prepared in the dining hall so everyone goes have your meals.” Tang Wei said as he signaled to his men to usher everyone out of the room.
“You two stay.” He said as his gaze shifted onto Zhang and Ai.
“My name is Lee Ming and this is Shu Ai, how may we be of service to you my lord.” Zhang said with a bow.
“Brother Lee no need for the formalities, I’m interested in knowing how were you able to cure a disease like that so easily? Such a thing would make other doctors look down in shame due to their lack of knowledge.” Tang Wei said.
“It is simple my lord, my teacher had taught me instead of cure an illness as a whole, one should cure its symptoms one by one. That way instead of facing an army one would only have to face a single soldier at a time.” Zhang explained.
“If there is nothing you need my lord then I’m quite hungry.” Zhang said with a smile as he and Ai began to walk.
“Wait! I have a relative who has caught a strange disease and none of the doctors in the city have been able to come to a conclusion as to what the person is ailing if Brother Lee would accompany me and help cure that person.” Tang Wei said with a sincere face.
“I would love to but I fear someone like me who has only dabbled in medicine cannot hope to cure what none of the doctors in the city could not cure.” Zhang said modestly.
“Brother I’m getting hungry…” Ai complained adding a sense of urgency to the conversation.
Although Zhang wanted to enter the provincial lord mansion and meet the city’s lord, he had to make it seem like he didn’t. Only after Tang Wei pleaded to him would Zhang “reluctantly” go.
“You can come to the provincial lord’s mansion, there’s plenty of food there. As for you Brother Lee, I’ll have a talk with your higher ups and have them give you permission to take a leave from your duty. Tang Wei said.
After Tang Wei’s mouth went dry from trying to persuade Zhang to help him did Zhang finally agree.
With the provincial lord’s heir guiding them, Zhang and Ai headed toward the provincial lord’s mansion.
“Now to figure out if I should poison him or cure him…” Zhang thought as he and Ai stepped onto Tang Wei’s horse drawn carriage.
“If I cure him I would gain the support of this fellow right here, if I poison him then I would undoubtedly cause a lot of turmoil in this province.” Zhang pondered as he sat beside Tang Wei.
It was certain that whatever Zhang’s decision was the Red Thorn Province would certainly undergo great changes.
But whatever changes the Red Thorn province undergoes, it would all end the same once the other beauties arrive with their armies.
While Zhang and Ai were heading toward the provincial lord’s mansion and while the sun began to set, trouble was brewing elsewhere.
As the kingdom of Aurora marched southward, the continent’s second strongest empire began to march on a path of blood also.
Far off from the western coast of the Warring States Region, a massive naval fleet consisting of hundreds if not thousands of ships had headed to sea.
Everyone single one of these ships had the flag of the Siwang Empire hoisted high up on their sails and many hundreds of thousands of soldiers on board.
Perhaps what had happened years ago would repeat itself and the Siwang Empire would once bring terror to its neighbors.
Perhaps the Siwang Empire’s path would once more cross with Zhang’s. But the Zhang of today is not the Zhang of yesterday.