In the middle of the night, the bonfires outside the tent crackled and burned and a few soldiers were outside on patrol.
The candlelight inside the tent gave out a bubbling noise with moths occasionally passing through, attracted by the blazing fire. They entered the fire with no way of returning, fried in an instant, becoming pieces of sparks.
Following the unstable flicker of the light’s shadow, a dull groan began to rise, but it was suppressed, as if extremely patient. After a long time, such movement halted.
Ni Lie’s chest moved up and down, beads of sweat glowing under the lamp. He gasped for breath and his whole body was surrounded by a strong musk smell. He pulled the sweat towel at the head of the bed with one hand and wiped it roughly, before throwing that mess on the ground.
The soldiers outside did not know what filthy things their commander had done secretly in his tent, much less how their commander had fantasized fanatically about how he would tarnish his darling everywhere. The man on the bed only closed his eyes, and covered his face with the plain white underwear, allowing the fragrance to linger on his senses, isolating the other smells from the side.
Suddenly he got up and hurriedly put on his clothes, grabbed the spear hanging in front of the bed, and walked outside to the training ground.
He trained outside, dripping with sweat in the open space for an hour until the moon hung in the middle of the sky. This dissipated the restlessness from his whole body a lot.
He was soaking wet. He immediately took off his robe, put it on his shoulder, while the beads of sweat slid down the lines of his wheat-coloured muscles, wetting the surface. He took the sweat towel handed by his guard and wiped his face casually before handing him the spear in his hand.
He was about to go to the back of the barracks to cool down when a rush of footsteps rang behind him. A soldier came to report: “Leader, we found an injured man from Mount Yue.”
Soon, two soldiers came carrying a stretcher. A person on the stretcher was covered in blood all over. His face was pale and he looked about thirty years old. Although he was wearing Jiaozhi’s clothing (former southernmost province of the Chinese Empire, now northern Vietnam), his facial features seemed like those of the central plain people.
“Search his body. ”
Before the soldier could start to search his body, the man on the stretcher moved his fingers and opened his eyes with difficulty. He gasped in pain, his slightly slaxed eyes fell on Ni Lie’s face.
Suddenly as if he was struck by lightning, his body trembled from head to toe. With his serious injury, he bit his lips while supporting his upper body to sit up. The green veins on his forehead popped out while rigidly staring at Ni Lie’s face. A pair of bloodshot eyes instantly turned feverish and full of lights.
“Red Tiger King! ”
The hoarse voice seemed to be squeezed out sharply. He tried to throw himself forward emotionally but was intercepted by the soldiers around him. Then, as if an arrow at the end of its flight, he sobbed in pain. He immediately lost all strength, his head tilted and he fainted.
The soldiers present looked at each other in dismay.
Ni Lie frowned slightly, he stared at his face for a moment before instructing: “Carry him to the back of the barracks and find a military doctor to take a look at him.”
“Yes!” the guards responded before leaving.
Cao Gang woke up from a sharp pain. He turned his neck around with difficulty, looking everywhere before closing his eyes again.
At this moment, he was incomparably convinced that he was reborn.
He didn’t expect that such a ridiculous and strange thing would actually happen to him.
His previous life had unconstrained ups and downs, but the first half was quite smooth. He was born from a literary reputable family in Jiangnan and was the top scholar in the palace examinations. He adjusted to the situation and entered into officialdom. He first worked at the Imperial Hanlin Academy, then because of his outstanding ability and insight, he was made into a teacher of the five classics of Confucianism at the Imperial School, responsible for the teaching of the princes.
However, he unexpectedly offended the fourth prince, Li Yuanxu. Li Yuanxu bore grudges against him and not only was he demoted into a commoner, but even his family also met with a violent death. In a moment of resentment, he abandoned his pen and joined the Red Tiger Army, which was mostly consisting of the Han ethnic group. He was later recognized by the Red Tiger King and became the military counsellor. One scholar and one martial master, taking advantage of the unstable situation, became the sharpest sword under the heavens that split apart the country that was ruled by the Li imperial family.
In his previous life, he followed the Red Tiger King into the capital, broke through the city gates, and captured the Li clan. In the third year of Jihe, the Dynasty’s Yuan Emperor killed himself. After several years of war, there was no more royal bloodline, and in the autumn of the same year, the Red Tiger King was proclaimed the emperor, where he changed the Yuan system and his kingdom was established. As the most outstanding minister, he also stepped onto a high position above ten thousand people but below——only one man. The greatest achievement could be nothing more than that.
However, everything seemed to be a big dream, and now, he unexpectedly returned to his most down and out period.
During this period of time, he inquired about all kinds of news everywhere, but he was shocked to find that the situation in the world today was a little different from that of his previous life, especially when he went to the Governor’s mansion of Jiangjing as in his previous life. He found that Ni Lie did not devote himself to Xue Zaixing’s command.
After some inquiry, he learned that Ni Lie had become the commander of the county garrison in Lingnan, so he tracked and looked for him to seek shelter but he was captured by the barbarians halfway, and narrowly escaped death. He escaped with his schemes with great difficulty and now he finally found the master he had served in his previous life.
Everything today was completely different from what happened in his previous life. Could it be that someone here was reborn again just like him then slightly altered the predetermined destiny?
As he was pondering this, there was a sound of footsteps bursting through the front of the tent door. When the sound of the tent being lifted was heard, two guards walked in following behind the young general.
He was dressed in armour, lofty and tall, he was the Red Tiger King who had shaken everything in all directions in his previous life, the person who toppled the world upside down and now he was the leader of the country garrison, Ni Lie.
Cao Gang looked at his handsome, clear and cold face. In the previous life, this face was crossed with a huge knife scar, from eyebrow peak all the way to the chin. He looked gloomy and terrible, but the youth at this time was with a face in perfect condition. Although his facial expression was ice-cold, there was no overcast like in his previous life.
“Who are you?”
The cold voice of the youth in front of him interrupted his inquiring gaze.
Cao Gang’s heart was stagnant. He had completely confirmed that the fate of the Red Tiger King had been changed by a resolute person.
But who was it exactly?
There were many possible answers swirling around in his mind, but in the end, he still had no clue about who it could be.
At present, he could only suppress the excitement in his heart, then just like the first time the two of them met, he replied in a hoarse voice: “I am a person from Jiangnan Province, a former teacher of the Five Classics of Confucianism at the Imperial School. Now, I’m just a commoner called Cao Gang.”
Ni Lie glanced at him, “From the capital? How did you wander about to arrive at Lingnan, this frontier zone?”
Cao Gang touched his chest and found that the documents in his bosom were missing. He was trying to explain, when he heard the other party say, “There is no need to look for them, the documents on your body have already been taken for examination.”
Cao Gang was slightly relieved, so he answered his doubts according to the same set of words he said from his previous life, except he only said how he came to be in Lingnan with half-a-truth and half-a-lie.
After listening, Ni Lie had no expression on his face. He only instructed a few words to the guard on his side and the two people responded and left the tent.
Ni Lie looked back at him again and said, “Before your identity is revealed, you will be left in the camp for the time being. You must not take a step out of the camp, do you understand?”
Cao Gang hurriedly nodded his head.
Ni Lie nodded his head and took a few steps outside. When suddenly his footsteps stopped for a long while before he turned his face back and asked: “Who is the ‘Red Tiger King’ you called before?”
” For some reason, when he heard ‘Red Tiger King’, his heart and lungs were torn apart. His body shook inexplicably for no reason as if something had broken out of his heart, swelling and feverish, making him restless.
Cao Gang clenched his fists, his tears almost rolling down on the spot. The pride and ambition of his previous life were revived at that moment and the blood in his body boiled up. He thought it was the same in this life, he wanted to assist him and achieve this man’s greatest dream.
But now Cao Gang just swallowed his saliva, pressed down the excitement in his heart, and humbly replied: “He’s just an old friend.”
The man in front of him listened to what he said before he spun around and walked out of the tent.
After living in the county garrison’s tent for more than half a month, Cao Gang’s body was almost recovered. It’s just that he was still walking slightly lame, the rest already healed. During this period, he also probed out the situation here.
As he roughly inquired before, most of them were similar to the situation in his previous life, but some of them were different from the previous life.
What surprised him the most was that the Dynasty’s Yuan Emperor, who had never been out of the palace in his life, was actually appointed a territory in Lingnan as King Guang’an and Ni Lie who had devoted himself to Xue Zaixing, the governor of Jiangjing, had become the current county garrison leader. The most important thing was that before he was appointed as the commander of the county garrison, he was the general in charge of Guang’an mansion’s soldiers. It could be said that he was King Guang’an’s personal subordinate.
He was quick-witted and knew that there must be something wrong among all these things.
Could it be that the dim-witted and incompetent Dynasty’s Yuan Emperor puppet was also reborn like him?
Thinking of this possibility, he couldn’t help but deduce it in his mind.
The third prince of the previous life was put up on the throne by the ambitious Sima family because of his powerless background and intersex body and became the puppet emperor his whole life. After the city was captured, he destroyed his facial appearance and hung himself in the palace hall.
Now that he thought about it, if he were born again, he would definitely change his destiny…
He couldn’t help but draw out a breath, a trace of chill rising between his teeth.
He had intersected with this Dynasty’s Yuan Emperor.
In his previous life, during the time when he taught the princes in the Imperial School, naturally, he saw the Dynasty’s Yuan Emperor who was still the third prince back then. Because of his ominous intersex body, he was rejected by Emperor Mingde and amongst the princes and princesses, he was always the object of humiliation. If the teacher was present, it was still fine. However, if it was changed to self-study, the next day he would have a bruised face or be limping.
And he seemed to be used to it, never complaining. Perhaps he knew that his complaints were useless. A weak child, always submissively sitting in the corner, even his breathing was quiet, lest he attracts the attention of others to come and abuse him.
At that time, he had some pity for this thin third prince, and even occasionally took care of him in secret.
But that’s all there was to it.
Later, when he followed the Red Tiger King to attack the capital, he saw the badly mutilated corpse in the palace. At that time he was even almost insulted by those two commoner soldiers. He sighed with regret before asking someone to bury him.
But now there was a bit of disgust born for him.
Ni Lie was the sharpest heaven-splitting dragon-slaying sword, but he actually changed his fate rashly? Could it be that he wanted to rely on him to change his form to ascend to the supreme position?
Cao Gang clenched his fists, and a cold light appeared in his eyes.
After several investigations, Cao Gang’s identity was now clear and because of his wishes, Ni Lie left him as an accountant in the army.
In mid-November, the county garrison messenger brought exciting news. In the next few days, King Guang’an will go to the frontier to reward the soldiers stationed at the frontier defence line.