BAI SHEN HONG
"This is where I saw the sparkle of light shoot into the sky. No doubt it was the fire explosive that belongs to the Imperial family for it was one like no other." The servant pointed to the sky as he led the emperor onto the clearing where the military servicemen had stationed to train, when the fire explosive sent to Elora was spotted.
Shen Hong regretted that he had dismissed Eunuch Nam the night the explosive was seen. In his sorrow, Elora would have eased his pain. All she would have needed to do was smile for him and his heart would indeed relent and let go a little bit.
"Grand General, we have searched all over the Capital, the bridge and everywhere possible and we still cannot find her. Forgive us." Luo Meng spoke from behind him.
"What about the merchant that gave her the package?"
"We are still searching for him as we do note that he may possibly have information concerning her whereabouts."
"Very well," Huizhong turned around to the servant who did the great work of spotting the explosive, "well done. What shall I reward you with?"
The young man shied away, and courteously said the expected words that everyone was to say when asked what they would like by a royal member. "Grand General's immense commitment to the military is enough reward."
"I insist." Elora was important to him and he would make sure anyone who contributed to finding her was well spoilt.
"If so, would Grand General mind honoring me with my greatest desire."
"What would that be?" His eyebrow rose curiously.
"Luo Meng... " he stuttered. "Please grant me a duel with Luo Meng."
Shen Hong chuckled, amazed that that could be someone's dream. Without a doubt, his personal bodyguard was well respected and highly looked at. He was the only one who could match with him and come close to winning over him when it came to sparing. Probably the servant's dream was to duel with the emperor, but to request that would be impolite as it would possibly indicate that he had ambitions to defeat the dragon, an indirect insult and mockery.
"Luo Meng," Shen Hong granted the request and in submission Luo Meng stepped onto the clearing's middle ground. The rest of the present military servicemen encircled the two excitedly. One started shouting Luo Meng's name, then the next joined in, and then the rest—a discord of chanting.
"Luo Meng! Luo Meng!" They shouted happily. Huizhong knew that in their hearts they hoped their friend would win, but to show respect for the emperor's favorite they hyped Luo Meng anyway.
What Shen Hong marveled at about being in the presence of the military servicemen is how they were not afraid of being themselves in front of him. They did not shake in his presence like the feebles at the palace, due to circumstance of having waged war together and having gone through the tough of times as a unit. To be precise, they found him relatable and more of someone who was of acquaintance.
"Luo Meng!" They chorused when the military service man pulled his sleeves and Luo Meng showcased off his sword into the air. From years of practising with Shen Hong, every fighting move of Luo Meng was much of a replica of the emperor's than his own.
Shen Hong watched with interest though it was already obvious that Luo Meng would win. The repetitive war cry hushed a little and Shen Hong was caught off guard to see a young lady walk in on them. Instinctively, swords were sheathed to stop her from going further so as to protect the emperor. Since meeting at the Dura Mountain Camp, the cunning lady always managed to show up in the most unlikely places he would think to find her.
Though it was a hot day, she was the sunshine herself. Her skin was one that resembled gold and honey under the radiance of the sun. He bet whenever she showed up at a place, she always grabbed everyone's attention with her aura of beauty and grace.
He noted that she was putting on the quest uniform, which made him wonder what quest she was up to. Was she there for him?
He had seen that uniform on so many maids but none fit into it as quintessentially as her. The charm of her physique was one to keep a man up all night. The purple ru(blouse) hugged her torso tightly while the qun(wrap-around skirt) held her hips before broadly flaring. The ruqun showed every point of her curves so accurately.
He had to have her, he decided. Maybe the insanity of him seeing her as Elora would then stop since it was just lust that was making him lose it.
But what was she doing there? Was she stalking him in determination to get back her pendant? Though, that would take great effort. She was not aware of how he looked like as he had not revealed himself to her yet.
"Let her through," he instructed, curious on what she sought after. They pulled back their swords for encasing, and she muttered something that was not coherent to him. Luo Meng's name perhaps?
She was not aware of anything else but Luo Meng as she directed herself to him. This rattled Shen Hong a little bit. Surely, Luo Meng was not more appealing than him, was he? Puzzled by what he had never seen before–Luo Meng with a woman–he withheld himself from laughing. It was all the more enjoyable to watch how Luo Meng looked quite uncomfortable and nervous as the young lady approached him to lay her hands all over him.
The military servicemen started hooting to encourage her, something Huizhong would not recommend. If she kept harassing Luo Meng, it wouldn't be long before Luo Meng snapped and tore her into pieces. His guard was not one for touch and affection considering his dark past. When they had met, it had taken two summers before he got to brush hands with him when they spared.
When she released him, he thought she was done with her weird behavior but it grew the more bizarre. She reached for the belt of his robes and started untying him.
"Woa...ooah." Everyone cheered and whistled wildly.
A part of him itched because of something he did not feel so often. Was it jealousy?
At the corner of his eye, Huizhong saw Luo Meng's fists stiffen into two balls. It would be entertaining to see his bodyguard lash and break her into pieces. Someone needed to put her in place and he would laugh at the spectacle.
Luo Meng's fists were now shaking, his guard barely able to control himself. He was about to attack her.
But Shen Hong did not let that happen.
Surprisingly, his feet felt light when he lifted them and reached over, pulling the lady to him by her arm to which she fell into his embrace. He held her tightly against her refusal then whispered suggestively.
"I don't think it's Luo Meng you seek after, because it's me who wishes to be served." She tried to pull back but he held her strongly, her ear kissing his moistened lips as she struggled.
"I promise to pay well," he continued to softly speak into her ear.
His voice was more of monotone and lust infested, hoping she would not recognize it because of their previous encounter.
"Let me go," she cried and pushed him off her. He saw her hand rise to slap him in slow motion, though to another it would be an unexpected attempt.
Effortlessly, he caught her wrist and smirked. "Good. I like it this wild."
The servicemen broke into laughter and wooed. These were the matters they liked to indulge in for relief, keeping in mind that they were men who were isolated from women due to their demanding job.
"Forgive me, Grand―"
"Luo Meng, do not make mountains out of molehills." He abruptly stopped Luo Meng from revealing his identity. It was better for her not to know what the Grand General looked like yet, especially in the sour state she seemed to be tranced in.
He smugly looked down at her.
Before him she stood, yet absent she was. She seemed to be afflicted by much emotion and frustration he did not know of. She was already a victim of her woes before she was a victim of his, so he let her go.
Her vulnerability disqualified her from being his cup of tea on that day.
She sighed in relief, looked down, then slowly, she trudged away.
He had never seen a person who could be so lost and weighed down like him.
"What is your relationship Luo Meng?"
"Nothing I know of, Grand General." Luo Meng denied knowing her. Could it be that she assumed that Luo Meng was him since he was in a similar black attire when he had met her secretly, few days ago?
He looked over at her and saw her stumble over a rock, then carelessly fell before pushing herself up again. He was glad to see her get up in a way that had nothing to do with his beloved―pulling her leg up first.
He needed to find Elora.
He turned around, and motioned at Luo Meng. "Let's go."
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