Sun Jin had put on normal traveling clothes to make sure the bandits wouldn’t be able to identify him as a warrior at first glance in case he ran across one of them. Also, it would be best if he didn’t scare Kanuen’s family even further. If they screamed and thus made the bandits come over or even tried to drive him off themselves, wouldn’t that be super embarrassing?
He stopped in front of their door and looked to both sides of the street. By now, the sun had already gone down, dying the street and houses a dark gray and taking some of the day’s warmth with it. Sun Jin didn’t feel cold though. No, on the contrary, his palms were sweaty and he had to wipe the sweat off his forehead too. Ah, why was he the one who had to do this?! He wasn’t prepared to meet his Master’s in-laws! Shouldn’t the Master see them first?!
Ah, but his Master had told him to come here. He wouldn’t hold it against him later on, would he?
Sun Jin paced up and down in front of the house before he turned back to the door. Never mind. He still had to finish the mission. He couldn’t just go back because he was afraid of what his Master would say later on. Well, even if his Master got angry, he could still hide behind Kanuen, couldn’t he? After all, he would’ve had a significant role in saving his family! That should get him a word or two in his favor, shouldn’t it?
Sun Jin bit his lip and finally raised his hand, knocking on the door. His eyes widened and he dashed to the side, hiding below the window. Oh no! What if things went wrong? Then not only would he have met his Master’s in-laws before him, but he also wouldn’t be able to hide behind Kanuen. Then what?
The door was opened and Sun Jin couldn’t help but peek out from under the window. Unfortunately, the person hadn’t stepped out so he couldn’t see them. Ah! This couldn’t be! He wanted to see. Was it really true that Kanuen’s whole family was made up of beauties? Then … did he have a beautiful sister too? And was she married already? If she wasn’t, maybe she would consider him?
"Who is there, Piul?"
The person at the door furrowed their brows and turned back inside. "Nobody."
There was an answer but then the door was closed. Sun Jin winced. Oh no! What now? They had already close the door and he was still outside! Ah, but he didn’t dare go in. Now, what should he do?
Before he could decide, the door was opened again and a man poked his head out. He looked down in both directions and finally spotted Sun Jin squatting below his window. His brows raised and he stepped outside. "Excuse me, you are …"
Sun Jin jumped to his feet, staring at the man with wide eyes. This had to be his Master’s father-in-law! How should he greet him? Old Master?
The man’s brows raised even further and he walked over to him, looking him up and down. "Are you alright? Are you hurt?"
Another head poked out of the door and a scoff sounded. "If he’s hurt, he’s hurt his head."
Sun Jin furrowed his brows and wanted to scold the person but he couldn’t get any word out when he looked over. He could only gape. He had actually thought that Kanuen was a beauty but … how come this person was even more beautiful?
He blinked his eyes and then rubbed them, taking another look. Indeed. This person was even more beautiful than Kanuen! He didn’t bother about his Master’s father-in-law anymore and rushed over, leaning down slightly to peer into the person’s face. Whoa! What color were those eyes? And that pair of lips! And that slender neck! And that …
Sun Jin stared at that flat chest dumbfounded. Something was wrong. How come this person was also a man? Shouldn’t this be his sister? It wasn’t normal to have two boys in one family who were both this beautiful! This was unfair! What would the women in the town think when they saw? Wouldn’t they resent the Heavens?!
The beautiful boy raised his hand and slapped Sun Jin. "Pervert! You better scram now!"
Sun Jin straightened up and then held his cheek. How come … the beauty had slapped him? Kanuen had never slapped their master! And their Master even kissed him at first sight! He had only looked just now!
Sun Jin pursed his lips and frowned. "You’re more beautiful than him but your brother has the better temper!"
The boy’s eyes widened and the man that Sun Jin had started to ignore rushed over and grabbed him by the shoulder. "What did you say? His brother? You … You’ve seen Kanuen?"
Sun Jin still pursed his lips but nodded. "Sure, I have. My Master picked him up in the desert."
The man shook him. "Then how is he now? Is he well? And where is he?"
Before Sun Jin could answer, the boy in front of the door huffed. "Shouldn’t you ask him if he wants to come in?" He stepped to the side as if to let them inside, stunning Sun Jin into silence. It seemed this boy wasn’t too bad after all.
The man nodded and patted Sun Jin’s back. "Right, right. I’ve been a bad host. You come in, please. Tell us everything that happened!" He ushered Sun Jin through the door and then called out to the other people in the house.
Sun Jin was invited to sit down but couldn’t say anything for a moment. He looked at one person after the other and felt that he had some questions. Honestly, looking at the parents, it was no wonder the children looked like that. But … how had the Gods distributed beauty? It should be impossible for one family to have so many beautiful people in it! Shouldn’t there be at least one black sheep?
"Hey!" The boy with the bad temper kicked his shin with a frown. "Didn’t you say you picked up my brother? So where is he? How is he doing? You better speak now or I’m going to beat you up!"
Sun Jin furrowed his brows. "That can’t be. Kanuen said the people in Sou don’t fight."
"You!" The boy looked as if he really wanted to beat him up but his father held him back and gave an awkward smile. "I’m sorry, don’t take it to heart. A lot has happened here in the last few months. We’ve all been worried about Kanuen since he’s been gone for so long. So … Can you tell us where he is?"
Sun Jin thought of how Kanuen was probably snuggling with his Master right now and couldn’t help but feel peeved. He had to go on such a mission while those two could spend some quality time with each other. Why hadn’t he picked up a beauty?
Well, he first had to finish this mission. Afterward, he could probably go and look around if there was another beauty from another family. He definitely couldn’t marry one from this family! After all, his Master would already do that. It wouldn’t do for him and his Master to do the same, would it? No, certainly not.
He shook his head, making the family wonder just what they had to do for this person to open up and tell them about Kanuen. Before they could ask, Sun Jin already spoke up. "He’s well. He’s with my Master right now. My Master said I should tell you that they’ll come over tomorrow and drive off the bandits. Oh, right! Do the bandits all stay in one house? Because if they do, then we’re supposed to put a light into the window at night."
Kanuen’s family couldn’t help but look at each other, wondering what all this was about.
The one to first react was Kanuen’s brother. He jabbed at Sun Jin’s chest with his finger while continuing to furrowed his brows. "You, speak more clearly! Your Master picked my brother up and he’s still with him and even told him about the bandits, right?"
Sun Jin nodded. "Didn’t I say that?"
"Then what about driving them off? How does he want to do that? Does he think it’s so easy? Didn’t my brother tell him that there were more than twenty men?"
Sun Jin nodded. "Sure he did. We’re also many men."
The boy turned to look at his father. "Many men … You don’t think brother would have …"
His father shook his head. "Don’t talk nonsense." He turned back to Sun Jin and gave another awkward smile. "Then what does your Master intend to do? Does he have enough people to fight them? Because I doubt they would go just like that. It’s already been several months since they came here and they don’t seem to intend to leave at all."
"My Master said that too but we have a plan. First, he needs to know where they stay though. So … Do they stay in one building?"
Kanuen’s father and brother exchanged a glance while the women looked at Sun Jin worriedly, clasping each other’s hands. "Well, they do most of the nights. It can’t be said for sure."
Sun Jin nodded but couldn’t help but wonder just what he should do now. What did this man mean with most of the nights? So did they stay in one building or didn’t they?
Kanuen’s brother scoffed. "What are you looking like that for? They are staying in one building, yes. They don’t stay there if they want to stay somewhere else."
Sun Jin nodded and rubbed his neck. Kanuen’s brother really wasn’t how he had imagined the people of Sou. Maybe he was adopted? Well, at least it answered the question. "Then we’ll need to put a light into one of the windows at night. "Oh, and tomorrow, you’ll have to tell the others that when I give the signal, they have to go into their houses and lock themselves in. It’s so the bandits can’t do anything to them and threaten my Master and the others."
Kanuen’s father nodded. "Sure, sure. We’ll do that. Then what about Kanuen? He’s really well?"
Sun Jin pursed his lips. "Sure he is. My Master treats him very well. He treats him much better than us." He thought back to the day in the oasis when he had wanted to fry a snake but his Master refused to ask Kanuen which ones weren’t poisonous. It was just one snake! Couldn’t he have made an exception? They should also get something out of it that their Master picked up a beauty, shouldn’t they? They hadn’t eaten something good in a while.
Sun Jin perked up and then gave an ingratiating smile. "Say … You wouldn’t have something to eat here, would you?"
"Scoundrel!" Kanuen’s brother glared at him but his mother hurriedly nodded and dragged his sister away, going to get some food.
Sun Jin smiled happily. Great! If he did such a dangerous mission, then he should also get something out of it. His Master shouldn’t have anything against it. Anyway, he also needed his full strength to beat those bandits up tomorrow so asking for a little food really shouldn’t be too much. Sun Jin smiled to himself at that thought and just waited for Kanuen’s mother to return. Seeing the food, his mouth watered and he gave her a big smile, unceremoniously starting to eat.
Kanuen’s brother scoffed again but he didn’t dare to say anything when his father gave him a warning glare. Well, if this person really knew where his brother was, then he really shouldn’t anger him for now. If they didn’t manage to drive off the bandits and return his brother, then he could still try and beat him up!
In that way, a few hours went by and the last light of the day receded, leaving the town in complete darkness.
Sun Jin who had previously just been lazing around, got serious and stood up, asking Kanuen’s father for a candle before putting it down on one of the window sills and lighting it up.
He looked out and couldn’t help but wonder if this would be enough. His Master and Kanuen should be able to see this, shouldn’t they? He didn’t know for sure so he stepped back and sat down on the ground, staring at the candle. In case they hadn’t been looking just now he would just let it burn for a while longer.
Sun Jin stared at the candle in a daze, wondering just when he should snuff it out. In the end, he was woken up by somebody nudging his shoulder. When he opened his eyes, he was greeted by the sight of a brown shoe with white embroidery. The tip of that foot was touching his shoulder over and over again, the strength slowly increasing. Sun Jin blinked his eyes. If he didn’t say anything now, would the person kick him in the end? It sure seemed that way.
Sun Jin grumbled and sat up, rubbing his eyes. "What?" Not even his Master and the other men had ever woken up so rudely.
Kanuen’s brother harrumphed and then thrust the plate with food at him. "You better get up now. Didn’t you promise to drive off those bandits today? How come you’re still sleeping when everyone’s already awake then?"
Sun Jin took the plate and stared at the food in a daze. Then he turned to look at the window. The candle had already burned down and the sun was shining brightly outside. Huh. It seemed he had overslept. He rubbed his head and furrowed his brows. "What about the candle? And what about the bandits?"
The beautiful face distorted and the person slapped him on the forehead. "You still dare to ask! Of course, we put out the candle when you fell asleep! Did you want to burn down the house? Then where is my brother going to return to after he comes back?! What about the bandits? Naturally, they’re still here! You think they’d pack their bags and leave just because you’ve come here?" He harrumphed again and then stormed out of the room. Sun Jin had no trouble hearing him yell how 'this person' was useless and how they shouldn’t rely on him.
He rubbed his head again and then ate the food before he got up and walked out of the room, finding himself in front of a little girl.
The girl blinked a pair of eyes that looked remarkably like Kanuen’s. This should be … his little sister? Sun Jin squatted down and looked into her face. Mn, this one was much more agreeable than that brother of hers. Even though the brother was actually the most beautiful, at least this girl wasn’t yelling and hitting. That was the type of person one should marry when she had grown up. Ah, hopefully, that vicious brother wouldn’t influence her too much.
The girl tilted her head. "Is it true that you’ll drive the bandits away so that big brother can come back?"
Sun Jin nodded and patted the weapon he was wearing. "Of course! You just watch. I’ll go do it now."
The scoff from behind him couldn’t be overheard. "You’ll go and drive them off right now? I’d really like to see that! Maybe I should go and watch."
Sun Jin got up and turned around, frowning at the person. "Didn’t I say my Master said you should stay in your houses and lock yourself in? Then how do you want to watch? It wouldn’t be good to drive them out of the town on this side. Then wouldn’t your brother be in danger?"
The boy shut up and imperceptibly raised his brows. "Endanger? Why? Is my brother in the south?"
Sun Jin nodded. "Sure. Didn’t I say he was with my Master? Anyway, I’ll go and drive off the bandits now. I hope you’ve already spread the message." He didn’t wait for the furious boy to say anything and just walked to the door. Ah, driving off the bandits shouldn’t be too hard. Well, it wasn’t like he had to drive off all of them by himself. He just had to make enough of a fuss so that the others would be able to hear it and could rush over to take care of the others. He only had to take care of a few of them. That would be enough.
He left the house but then remembered that he still hadn’t asked in which building the bandits stayed. He turned back just to come face-to-face with the boy. "Which house is the one the bandits chose?"
The boy sighed and stepped outside, motioning at his sister. "You close the door, lock it with the key and then have mother and father help you push something in front of it. Don’t let anybody else in."
The adorable girl nodded and closed the door. The next moment, the key could be heard turning in the lock and then steps sounded as if she was going to get her parents.
Sun Jin turned to the boy and rubbed the back of his head. "If she locks the door, then what about you?"
The boy harrumphed. "If I don’t bring you there, will you even be able to find the house? Come on now." He gripped Sun Jin’s hand and then pulled him over to a building next to the market square in the middle of the town. He pointed at the door and then looked up at Sun Jin. "It’s this one."
Sun Jin still stared at that fair hand holding his before he slowly nodded and patted the weapon hanging from his belt. "Alright, then you go back."
The boy raised his brows. "Did you miss the part where my sister locked the door?" He motioned at the house again and then crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Go on. I’ll just continue to stand here. I’d really like to see how you’re going to face off with those bandits."
Sun Jin stared at him in a daze. This person … Was he really Kanuen’s brother? But … their master’s lover was so much better! Not only was he listening to their Master, but he was even trying to help. So how come his brother was making trouble just one day after they had met?
As expected, their Master had much better luck than them. When he casually picked up a beauty in the desert, it turned out to be such a good one. When he found a beauty in a town, it was such a fierce one that wouldn’t listen to him no matter what.
He sighed and shook his head. "I’ll go in there but you better find a place to hide. If something happens to you, then your brother will be sad. And if your brother is sad, then my Master will get angry at me. You have to tell him that it wasn’t my fault! I told you to hide. If you still don’t do it, then that really isn’t my fault." He didn’t wait for the fierce beauty to say anything and just rushed up to the door, lifting his foot and kicking it open. "You! Bandits! I’m here to drive you out!"
The conversations that had been going on inside the room stopped at once and twenty pairs of eyes all turned to the door to look at the person that had dared to come and proclaim something this ridiculous.
Outside of the house, Piul paled and then rushed to a nearby house, knocking on the door and rushing in, before slamming the door shut again. "He really did it!"
The people inside jumped to their feet and went to the windows to look.
By now, the bandits in the house had gotten up from the tables where they had just been eating breakfast and grabbed their weapons. "That fool over there! What did you just say? Care to repeat your words?"
Sun Jin raised his chin and looked at them arrogantly. "I told you that I’m going to beat your asses!"
A few knuckles were cracked and somebody turned to the leader of the bandits. "Boss, let me deal with that lunatic. After I mop the floor with him, he won’t dare to talk so arrogantly anymore."
The leader nodded. "You do that. Make sure he doesn’t speak any more nonsense afterward."
The bandit grinned and then walked up to Sun Jin. "You better not regret this when you pick your teeth up from the floor later on."
Sun Jin thought back to the fierce beauty and decided that his way of dealing with people was actually quite good. He imitated that scoff and then motioned outside. "Then let’s start fighting. How about doing it on the market square? Then at the very least, you can’t complain later on that you didn’t have enough space to fight. Wouldn’t want you to feel disadvantaged, would we?" He didn’t even wait for an answer and swaggered back out, pulling out his dagger while he was at it.
The bandit’s face flushed red in anger and he stormed out, unsheathing his sword. "You bastard! Just wait for me to teach you a lesson! We’ll see if you can still talk like that after you’re kneeling in the dust in front of me!"
The other bandits filed out of the house just the same while from the houses around the market square, the sound of doors closing and being locked sounded. Sun Jin focused his hearing and even noticed the sound of heavy things being dragged across the floor. Great. It seemed the people had really listened and had made sure to lock themselves in. This way, the bandits wouldn’t be able to use them against his Master and the others.
The bandit threw himself at Sun Jin, the blade swishing through the air.
Sun Jin scoffed again, feeling that he suddenly understood why that fierce beauty was doing that all the time. He ducked below the sword without any trouble and his dagger was thrust up, hitting the man squarely in the chest. The bandit groaned but didn’t collapse immediately. Sun Jin raised his brows in surprise. Ah, this guy wasn’t that bad! He took a step back and then kicked him in the chest, aggravating the wound and making the guy stumble several steps back.
In the house on the other side of the square, Piul’s eyes widened. "That guy’s really dealing with the bandits!"
The person next to him turned to face him. "What are you talking about? I thought that was why he came here? Don’t tell me you doubted he could actually do it?"
The boy harrumphed. "Him? One person against all these men? I really wonder how he wants to do that." Then again, this shameless bastard had said that his Master and some other people were around. Maybe those guys would sweep in? Then maybe they were really able to do it. If they had enough people … Maybe all hope wasn’t lost yet. Well, that was good. It was time Kanuen returned to them.
Meanwhile, the bandits growled. This guy! A few of them also unsheathed their weapons, making Sun Jin’s gaze dart around.
Damn. These guys weren’t honorable at all! They actually wanted to gang up on him with more than twenty men?! This wasn’t fair! He expressed his dissatisfaction by ramming his elbow into the first bandit’s head and then stabbing him again was his dagger. This time, the guy collapsed and didn’t get up again. Sun Jin turned to the group of bandits waiting. "What? You can’t bear to lose? So now you want to go after me all at once? Shameless! Do you have no honor as men?!"
The leader of the bandits glared at Sun Jin. This guy didn’t just dare to kill one of his people, he even dared to mock them afterward? He’d show him! "Men, don’t listen to his drivel. He’s just trying to make a fool out of us. He killed one of us, so he’ll have to pay for it with his life!" The leader unsheathed his own weapon and motioned forward.
He didn’t need to say anything else. The men stormed toward Sun Jin who raised his hand and whistled. Nothing seemed to happen though. Sun Jin cursed and then swung his dagger at the closest person, ducking below somebody else’s weapon and running in the northern direction. Just as his Master had said, he had to lure as many of them away as he could.
Behind him, the leader of the bandits laughed. "Look at that! He was being so tough before but now he is actually fleeing. You go and get him for me!"
Some of the men rushed after Sun Jin while they rest stayed, laughing at him. "Just as you said. He only dares to shoot off his mouth when he has an advantage. Now that he doesn’t, he naturally won’t dare to do anything." They shook their heads and wanted to return to the house.
On the other side of the square, Piul scoffed. These bastards! What did they mean now that he didn’t have an advantage? He might not like that idiot but it was obvious this was unfair! They weren’t able to defeat him when they were fighting man against man so they actually ganged up on him. And yet they still dared to call themselves men? They were a bunch of wimps!
Ah, it was almost a pity for that idiot to die. He might not have any manners and might be stupid but at least he had known how to fight. That was already worth a lot.
Meanwhile, the 'idiot', Sun Jin, darted from one side of the street to the other, swinging his dagger at the man behind him and evading the strike of the others. Damn! There were actually five people behind him. Well, that was good for his Master and the others but why was he fighting against five people at the same time?! Wasn’t that asking a bit too much?!
Anyway, there was nothing he could do. He evaded yet another strike and then rammed his shoulder into the guy’s stomach. The man stumbled back, colliding with the person following after. With two of his opponents on the ground, Sun Jin’s face lit up. He jumped at the next person, slapping the sword out of his hand. His dagger arched through the air and went for the man’s neck. Blood spurted out and the guy went down, making a last awkward sound.
Unfortunately, the other bandits already rushed up. Sun Jin cursed and rolled to the side, barely evading their weapons. One of the blades struck the sleeve of his robe but he couldn’t care about that. He rolled further to the side and jumped up to his feet, slashing out again at the man on the ground to make sure he was dead.
These guys, they definitely couldn’t be left alive. If they were, they would just return later on to make trouble. No, he couldn’t let that kind of thing happen. Otherwise, his Master’s lover and his family would never be safe.
Sun Jin moved further back, evading another few strikes and then turning tail and running further down the street. He had already killed two of the bandits and four were still following him. That was six people the others wouldn’t need to care about and six people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to do anything to the townspeople. That was good. It was probably much better than his Master had expected. Ah, it was hard though.
Behind him, the bandits angrily yelled, calling him names and scolding him as if that would make him slow down or even stop to engage them in a fight. Sun Jin smirked. Did he look like an idiot? Why would he stand still for them to kill him if he could just run away? He did slow down though. After all, he couldn’t let them feel that there was no chance to get him. If he did, then wouldn’t they return and meet up with the others? He couldn’t let that happen!
Seeing that their victim was getting slower, one of the bandits yelled and rushed forward, striking toward Sun Jin’s back.
Sun Jin grinned and sidestepped, slashing out to the back and cutting the guy’s stomach open. Huh! That was what you got for messing with their family! He didn’t wait any longer and just pushed the guy back into the others, once again running forward. The bandits grew even angrier. They caught their companion and then started running after him as fast as they could, once again yelling profanities.
The people in the houses couldn’t believe what was going on. They had indeed locked their doors and even windows but a few of them couldn’t help but peek out in between the cracks, watching as Sun Jin managed to lure five of them away and kill one after the other.
Before they had the time to come to terms with what was happening, things changed again. The sound of hooves sounded from the southern part of the town and then Hou Dong and his men rode in, drawing their weapons and rushing straight at the bandits.
The bandits were dumbfounded. What was happening here? Don’t tell them that lunatic hadn’t been the only one?! The leader of the bandits ground his teeth. It seemed these guys had planned to do this from the very beginning! He couldn’t help but think of the beautiful youth that had somehow managed to get away after they occupied the town. It seemed that the slut had run and gotten help from somewhere else.
He clicked his tongue and waved. "Seems like somebody wants to destroy our hard work. Let’s show them that we’re not that easily taken care off."
The bandits growled in response, rushing forward to confront Hou Dong and his men.
The weapons collided, the clanging sounding through the town, making the people hide even further into their houses. By now, nobody dared to stand close to the door or the windows. Even though they really wanted to see they didn’t dare to hope too much. How many men were there? Would they really be able to win against these ferocious bandits? They couldn’t believe it. After all, they hadn’t been able to win either. It wasn’t like they hadn’t tried to resist in the beginning. But it hadn’t worked at all.
The clanging continued, mixed with yells and people screaming profanities at each other until finally, everything fell silent.
The people in the houses shivered. This … Had these people won? Or had the bandits killed all of them? Those that had seen Sun Jin lure that handful of bandits away before and kill them one after each other felt that it had to be the people from outside that won. Most likely, the man that had come first was their best warrior so they had wanted to give him the majority of work and they would take care of the others. They should have enough people to deal with this. They had to be. Because if they didn’t, then things would get worse from now on. They didn’t even want to imagine that.