“You lied to me,” she declared, eyes narrowing.
The Commander spread his arms.
“You wanted me to kill him.” The conspiracy formed in her mind. “If I had assassinated him, you would have placed the blame solely on me.”
The Commander’s eyes darted perceptually to the left.
“Then,” she continued, “You would have executed me and seized his holdings.”
“Enough talk,” he sneered. “You failed on your promise to dispatch the Champion Standing.”
“Shui,” she repeated, more forcibly. “His name is Shui,” her voice rising, betraying her anger. “I will not let you hurt him.”
The commander looked left, then right at his guards.
Nala spat at his feet. “Shui’s honor has already been tarnished by a pitiful, dishonorable man.” Her voice rose again. “You do not deserve the loyalty of your men, Commander.” The word was scorned the same as Tradition.
The Commander tilted his head slightly, pursed his lips, and inhaled before he snapped his fingers. His guards withdrew their swords and advanced on Nala.
Nala retreated until her backside bumped against the bed with a sleeping Shui. A weight in her chest dissipated as she watched the guards move slowly towards her.
Shui is innocent, she thought, a smile appearing on her lips. It transformed into a sneer as she sized up the two guards in the lead.
I will die fighting for Shui’s honor, she thought. I can remove at least two of them before they cut me down.
Nala held her dagger to fend off an attack. She felt remarkably limber and light on her feet. She hadn’t remembered feeling this way any of the times she tried to attach Shui.
Nala crouched into the lian bing qi, a stance and fighting style she had practiced while attempting to defeat Shui, her dagger glinted in the dim light.
She prepared for her final fight … but no sword reached her.
An arm appeared above her form and the guards froze and looked past her.
She dared to see what had stopped their advance. She looked up to see the Champion Standing, stars mapped in his eyes.
“Shui,” she whispered, her breath escaped and her heart lept.
“I am beginning to think you enjoy me saving you, Nala.”
Nala relaxed her stance and Shui walked around the bed to stand between her and the Commander’s guards. He clapped his hands twice and hidden doors opened, more guards piled into the room. Nala’s eyes grew as she counted twenty four guards surrounding the traitors. She marveled at the size of the chamber.
Each of the Commander’s men were now held by two of Shui’s guards. Only the Commander was allowed to move freely.
His face contorted into a ruthless sneer. “You!” He sputtered indignantly.