Kastan swung his sword defending against the three soldiers sparring with him.The tremendous force of his strike drove them back.He attacked and countered, the sound of clanging swords filling the early morning.When he stopped to give the soldiers training with him a breather, he looked up to see Yasmin standing on the edges of the practice field.
“Your Grace,” Yasmin called.“Your Grace, it’s time for your morning meal.Please wash up so that you can eat.”
Kastan stared at her remembering Jihan’s order to remember to eat.How easy it was for Jihan to order him to take care of himself.
He had not known how hard it would be to keep that promise.How hard it would be to sleep alone, to wake to an empty pillow beside him.He missed returning home to the sounds of Jihan and Rashan laughing in the dining hall.Or watching them play dice, or listening to Rashan reading Jihan stories from their library.More than once, he had contemplated the idea of riding into Vasia to meet his family.
“Your Grace,” Naveed said, touching his arm.“You should cleanup for your morning meal.I’ll put away your sword for you.”
Kastan sighed and handed his sword to Naveed.He thanked the officers who had agreed to spur with him, and headed in the direction of Sun-filled Manor.
Half an hour later, he sat at the head of the long dining table, joined by Kaveh Miran.Yasmin was enjoying feeding his father, because the table was laden with a wide assortment of food.Kaveh indulged her by tasting everything she made and giving his opinion.Kastan had not known that was something Yasmin needed.
“Your Grace, Fara is coming home today after a visit to her parents’ home.She asked to meet with you,” Yasmin said, as she arranged a pot of tea and tea cups on the table.“Will you be around the manor?”
“Yes, she may find me wherever I’ll be,” Kastan said, with a negligent nod.
“Thank you, Your Grace,” Yasmin said and hurried away.
Kastan poured himself a cup of tea and took a few sips, his gaze on the chair to his right where Jihan sat for their meals.This early in the morning, Jihan preferred the tables by the fireplace.He got cold too easily. Kastan was always scolding him about not drying his hair fully.
“When the heart leaves home, gloom descends,” Kaveh said, drawing Kastan’s attention.“Your mood is too dark, Kas.Jihan will blame me if he discovers you are moping around the manor.”
Kaveh sat to his left drinking peach juice from his goblet.He looked relaxed and too happy for a man who spent his time training recruits.This morning, Kaveh was administering a qualification test for those same recruits.He looked too excited to get it done.
Jihan had to be right.Kaveh was lonely on his island. His consort always saw too much.
“I’m hoping your dining hall is not always so empty,” Kaveh said, his gaze on the dining table’s empty chairs.
“No,” Kastan shook his head.“We usually have a full table, especially when Jihan is around.This morning, Naveed is assisting General Condi with Lady Baiza’s move.Safan and Temu are away with Jihan.I thought it best for them to have the added security.”
“Missing him is a good sign,” Kaveh said, placing his goblet on the table.“It means you love, and you’re happy to have him around.It’s a blessing to miss him.”
“Hard to see it that way at the moment,” Kastan said, placing his spoon on his plate.He sat back and let out a sigh.“Pa, I know you and Ma were always affectionate.So, I want to ask you a question…”
“Ask,” Kaveh said, flashing him a smile, as he picked a strip of grilled beef and placed it on his plate.He cut it into pieces and added vegetables from a second bowl.Kastan watched his father take a bite, wondering how to phrase his question.
Kaveh chewed his bite and took another, focusing on eating.
Kastan sighed and stared into his tea.
“It’s about Jihan.I know he loves me, but every time he’s about to tell me, he holds back.Just before he left, the words were all but out, but he cut them off and pushed me away,” Kastan said, the words coming out of him so fast, he hoped Kaveh understood the first time. “Why do you think he does that?”
Kaveh sipped his juice and looked at him.
“What about you?”
“What about me?” Kastan asked, confused.He was asking about Jihan, not himself.
“Have you told him you loved him?” Kaveh asked.
Kastan blinked, trying to remember if he had said it.
“I gave him my family ring,” Kastan said.“That should be enough for him to know.”
“Should it?” Kaveh asked, with a small chuckle.“He’s not from a noble family to know that your ring means your love and loyalty forever.He needs actual words, as he can’t read your dense head.”
Kastan took offense to that.It was hard to talk about these things.Give him a blade and he could face armies and defend an empire.He was useless when it came to declaring what was in his heart.He wished Jihan would just know.
“You have to tell him,” Kaveh said, his words drawn out, his gaze on Kastan.“He might be your consort, but you two were married out of necessity.It would be good for him to know you care the same way he does.Use your words, Kas.”
“Huh,” Kastan said.
“I hope ‘huh’ means you’ll take my advice,” Kaveh said with a chuckle.
Kastan nodded and would have asked how to start but Naveed came running into the dining hall.
“Your Grace, there’s a report you need to see,” Naveed said, reaching Kastan.He held out a note that Kastan opened with a frown.“There’s been an attack.”
“Where?” Kaveh asked, dropping his fork in his plate.
Kastan unrolled the note and read it fast, panic growing at the contents.
To Lord General Naveed,
Reporting that Imperial Consort attacked on the way home to Silver Shore Valley.His carriage found on the main road filled with arrows.There’s no sign of Imperial Consort or Silver Shore Marquis.I’ve started a search.Reinforcements needed.
Kastan got up dropping the note on the table.He turned to Naveed, wanting answers, a dark haze taking residence in his head.The thought of Jihan and Rashan in danger filled his heart, taking root until he couldn’t think.
Naveed dropped to his knee, his head bowed.
“I have deployed every available man to comb the road to Vasia and all surrounding lands,” Naveed said.“I’m here to ask for your permission to leave the valley too.”
Kaveh picked up the note and read it.
“Permission granted, General,” Kaveh’s voice broke into his thoughts from afar.“Take several healers with you, just in case.”
Fear took hold at the thought of Jihan or Rashan hurt.The thought alone had him shaking.
His life had always been full of responsibilities he accepted because it was what he should do, as Imperial Prince, as a Commander of Armies.Then Jihan came into his life, filled it with warmth, joy and love.If anything happened to his consort, and his son, darkness would reign.Imperial Prince would become the monster Rushi feared.There was no one else in the empire who would dare touch his consort.
“Kas,” Kaveh said, getting up.
When Kastan didn’t respond, Kaveh raised his voice a notch.
“Commander shall go on the search with General Naveed.I’ll take over the valley until your return. Go get our family.”
Kastan strode out of the dining hall, a murderous tide growing inside him.
Firuz once spent a month making Jihan listen to the sound of an arrow flying at him.The flutter of the arrow’s wings midflight and the impact the arrow made when it landed on its destination, on trees, on the ground, and on any other surface.
That ability to remember the sound of an arrow flying had made it easy to count the hundreds of arrows that sunk into the carriage they had been using. Jihan sat on his horse, anger so dark boiling inside him, he worried he might burst.
Temu had ten elite soldiers with him.They were meant to serve as a travel guard now they were fighters meant to defend.Jihan rubbed his forehead, his gaze going to Rashan.The boy was brave, already wearing his sword and his bow and quiver.
Temu rode to his side, keeping pace as his soldiers took up their rear.They rode through the forest, dodging branches and wild shrubs as they forged a new path hoping to reach Silver Shore Valley.
Jihan’s gaze strayed to Rashan again.Worry eating at him that their attackers would not find them.Temu took the lead, relying on experience to lead them in the right direction.Safan stayed close to Rashan, to make sure he stayed unharmed.
Jihan ducked as a long branch swiped over his head, almost blinding him.
“Be careful,” Firuz said, and then in the next moment, he brought his horse to a full stop, his attention on their rear.
“Stop,” Firuz said, and Jihan complied right away.
It took everyone else a moment, but they stopped, and Temu rode back to Firuz’s side.
“What?” Temu asked.“We need to keep moving.”
“Not together like this.There are several hundred footsteps all around us, leaving small spaces for escape,” Firuz said, bringing his finger to his lips.“The hooves of our horses are guiding their direction.We need to rethink our strategy.”
“How do you know how many they are?” Safan asked Firuz.
“I can hear the ghost warriors moving over the tree branches,” Firuz said, closing his eyes, turning his horse around, listening keenly.“They are running to keep up.They were prepared that we would leave the carriage on the main road on the first attack.Their numbers are large.Their benefactor is wealthy enough to keep them all fed.”
Firuz sighed and opened his eyes to look at Temu.
“We can’t make it as a group.At this rate, they’ll go through your officers, and Shan will be in danger,” Firuz said.
Jihan breathed out his fear, his gaze going to Rashan who was clutching his reins tight.It was suddenly so clear.The only thing that was important in this moment was getting Rashan to safety.
“General Temu,” Jihan said, turning to Temu.“The only existing goal is to get Rashan to Silver Shore Valley.Don’t think of anything else.”
“His Grace will have us flayed if we leave you behind,” Temu replied, meaning it.“I vote we stay together.We’ll get you both to Silver Shore Valley.”
“You’ve heard Firuz.It won’t work that way.We need to separate,” Jihan snapped, shifting his horse closer to Temu.“Rashan is the future of Silver Shore Valley.Do you agree with me?”
“So are you, Your Grace,” Temu said, his eyes wide, his tone urgent, begging.
“If you respect my role in the valley at all, you’ll listen to me,” Jihan said, glaring at Temu.“Look to the future at all times.I have Firuz; my chances of survival are high.Rashan is eleven.He is Silver Shore Marquis and Duke Silver’s only heir.Nothing can happen to him.Lord Temu, you know I’m right.”
“What’s your order, Your Grace?” Temu asked, shaking his head, still unsure about this idea.
“Rashan’s safety first,” Jihan said, reaching for the red token at his waist.He held it out to Temu.“Take this with you.Kas will know I’m alive and he’ll take it easy on you.”
“Your Grace,” Temu said.“I can’t leave you on Duke Silver’s order.”
“Fine, then Lord Safan will take Rashan with five of the officers,” Jihan said, handing Safan his token.
Jihan got off his horse, hurried to Rashan’s white horse, and took Rashan’s hand.
“Shan, Master Safan will get you home,” Jihan said, smiling at Rashan.“You can see your Pa in a few hours.”
“What about you, Papa?I don’t want to leave you,” Rashan asked, fear and anxiety lacing his voice.“What if those bad people with arrows find you?”
Jihan squeezed his hand.“I have Firuz with me.He’ll keep me safe.”
“I want to stay with you,” Rashan said, shaking his head.
“I know.I also want to stay with you, Shan, but we need to think of your Pa.He’ll feel at ease when you get home,” Jihan smiled, hoping to show that he didn’t feel nervous at all.
Rashan leaned over his horse and Jihan touched his cheek.
“Master, if you want them to leave, now would be the time.Any longer and they’ll have to fight along with us,” Firuz said, his tone urgent.
Jihan grabbed Rashan’s reins and guided his horse to Safan’s side.He handed the reins to Safan.
“Don’t stop for anything,” Jihan said to Safan.“Go now.”
Safan nodded and urged his horse into motion.
“Papa,” Rashan started to protest, but Jihan slapped his horse’s rump and sent it racing following Safan.
Temu signaled five of his officers to follow them, then pulled out his sword and turned to Firuz.
Knowing Firuz was already calculating their odds, Jihan asked, “What should we do?”
“Unclip your cloak,” Firuz said, pulling out his sword.
Jihan unclipped the gold pin on his shoulder and the black cloak he wore slipped from his shoulders.Firuz reached for it, and tore it into pieces.
Firuz pulled a small cloth bag from the pack on his horse and filled the bag with the cloak pieces.He tied the bag and made a large hole at the bottom of the bag.Holding it so that the black pieces stayed inside, he jumped off his horse and hurried to Jihan’s horse.
He tied the bag on the saddle, and then took the package Jihan had taken with him from the carriage.Firuz then sent Jihan’s horse running in the opposite direction of Rashan.
“They’ll follow that for a while.Get on my horse,” Firuz said, not sheathing his sword, he tied Jihan's package on his horse .
Jihan mounted Firuz’s horse, took the reins and sighed in relief when he felt Firuz climb behind him.He had worried Firuz would send him away alone.
“Rashan is heading North East to Silver Shore,” Firuz said, wrapping an arm around Jihan’s waist. “I’ve sent your horse back to Vasia.We’ll go North West into the wild.Guide your horses around this clearing.Let them make enough tracks to confuse their tracker for a moment.”
Jihan did as Firuz asked followed by Temu and his men.When Firuz was satisfied, they entered deeper into forest.Firuz’s warmth against his back gave him courage when he wanted to scream in frustration.
Heart beating wild, Jihan led their horse through muddy patches, overgrown grass, and bushes.The deeper they went, the harder he prayed Rashan would get to Silver Shore.Even reaching the trade station would be enough.At least Rashan would find help there.
A painful scream broke into his thoughts, and Jihan stole a glance behind them.One of Temu’s soldiers was slumped over his horse, arrows on his back.
“The ghost warriors have caught up,” Firuz murmured, and Jihan tensed when Firuz’s arm slipped from around his waist and he heard him move.“Don’t look back Jihan.Focus on where we are going.”
Jihan still sneaked a glance behind him, in time to see Firuz thwart arrows flying at them.The arrows were many, raining around them like dark wooden manna.Temu’s officers tried their best to ward off as many as they could.Three went into their horse’s leg, and it jerked in pain.Jihan tried his best to control the animal, but then two more arrows sunk into its side.
Firuz’s arm returned around Jihan’s waist and then they were jumping off the horse.They fell on rough ground, Firuz tucking them behind a thick bush. Breathing hard, Jihan leaned around Firuz to see Temu and his men fighting off the ghost warriors who had reached them.They were skilled enough to fight off the ghost warriors, but the enemy’s number was too high.
“Can you run?” Firuz asked.“We’ll need to move fast, and find an open space to make a stand.”
Jihan nodded, reaching for the hems of his robes.This was why he had wanted to talk to Master Rabo. Long robes made it harder to run, but had that man given him a chance, no.When he got out of here he was going to have a few words for Master Rabo, Jihan thought as he grabbed the side hem and tugged.It ripped and Jihan nodded in satisfaction as he ripped the material all the way to his knee.He did the same on his right side, glad his dark trousers were fitted deep in his boots.
“I’m ready,” Jihan said.
“You keep ahead, unless they circle us then you stay close to me,” Firuz said.“Don’t stop running unless I tell you to.Do you hear me?”
“Yes,” Jihan said.
Firuz handed Jihan a dagger, and adjusted the handle on his sword.He crouched low; watching for an opening, as Temu and his officers pushed back the oncoming ghost warriors.Firuz waited a beat then pointed to his right.
“Run,” Firuz ordered and Jihan got up and ran.
Firuz kept up a step behind him, his sword swift as he intercepted the ghost warriors that came after them.
Jihan kept moving even when he felt blood spatters splash on his right cheek.Firuz’s speed was enough to frighten any normal man, but the ghost warriors attacking them seemed unfazed.
Jihan tripped over a thick branch, fell and caught his fall with his hands.A ghost warrior touched his blade on his arm, only for it to disappear as Firuz countered the attack.Jihan got up and kept running, heart pounding wild in his chest.He took deep breaths, his gaze searching for the open space Firuz wanted.
Jihan swiped his dagger at a thorny bush, pushing the wild branches away and almost screamed when he saw what lay ahead.
“Ru Ru, there is a huge cliff ahead.I don’t think I can fly,” Jihan called out.
“Turn right,” Firuz said, and Jihan changed direction, running into a wide open space with smooth rocks that led to the cliff.“Stop in the middle.”
Jihan stopped, breathing hard, his grip on his dagger tight.Firuz placed a hand on his right shoulder, and he tried to steady his speeding heart.Temu was right beside Firuz.There were no others from their group.Jihan could only hope the officers the ghost warriors had wounded were still alive.
Ghost warriors, shrouded in black from head to toe, lined the edges of the clearing.The only open path left was behind them, down the cliff.Jihan turned back to look at the edge and shuddered.He didn’t want it to end like this.
“Your Grace, help is on the way,” Temu said, with confidence.His cloak was ripped at the back, cut clean by a blade.There was blood on his left upper arm, and splashes of it on his neck and face.
Still, Temu swung his sword with confidence, standing tall, making Jihan feel as though they might win the moment.
“They are many,” Jihan said.“I count almost a hundred of them.Someone wants me dead, Lord Temu.”
“Then, we’ll disappoint them,” Firuz said.“You remember how to use the dagger?”
“Point and stab,” Jihan said.
“When they get close,” Firuz added, and let go of Jihan’s shoulder.
Temu reached into a bag clipped on his belt and brought out a handful of black fine dust.
Jihan watched Temu scatter it around him in a circle.Five of the ghost warriors at the tree line came running intent on their attack.Firuz intercepted them, cutting each one down, fast.
Temu used his sword, scraping the tip on the stone to light the black dust, making it light into a fire.Jihan realized that Temu was making a smoke signal for their location.
“Stay in the circle,” Firuz ordered, as Temu joined him.
Jihan then had to watch as Firuz and Temu fought ghost warriors rushing his flame circle, intent on killing him.He held his dagger ready to stab any that got close, but Firuz allowed none to cross the line of fire.His dear friend moved like the lightening around the flame circle, killing ghost warriors as they came at them.
Lord Temu fought just as hard, keeping pace with Firuz thanks to years of experience with war.They were beautiful in combat.Fast, precise, and so deadly, the ghost warrior’s bodies piled up around them.Jihan dragged the swords that fell close to the circle to stop unexpected attacks from the fallen.Through the frightening attack, Jihan prayed to all the gods he knew, to the ancients in the imperial tower.
They needed relief….
An eagle’s call reached him and he looked up to see an eagle flying high above them.It was not Yoru, because then Yoru would have flown down to help Firuz.Jihan gaped as another eagle joined the first one, circling the clearing above.He had no time to think of the eagles, because Firuz stumbled back into the circle, breathing hard, blood dripping from his left arm.He went down on his right knee, using his sword to brace himself.
Temu stood guarding Firuz, his sword down too.He was breathing hard too, his gaze on the remaining ghost warriors running toward them.
“Should we escape?” Jihan asked, grabbing the hem of his torn robes.He ripped a sizeable strip and used it to tie the cut on Firuz’s left arm.“You both can’t keep this up.Let’s jump off the cliff.”
“We’ll die if we do that,” Firuz said.
Jihan knelt on the ground beside Firuz.
“Don’t make me watch them kill you,” Jihan said.“I don’t want you hurt more than you are.I can still run.Let’s try and make it to a town.”
“The signal must be working, Duke Silver’s eagles are above,” Firuz said, the whites of his eyes slowly shifting to black. He seemed to gain strength from the change, as he got up shaking out his hands.Jihan looked up at his shadow guard.
“Lord Temu is also here to help.We’ll stay until rescue comes,” Firuz said, picking up an extra sword from the pile Jihan had accumulated from the fallen ghost warriors.“We’ll fight until we can’t.Only then can we jump off the cliff with you.”
“Firuz!” Jihan started to protest, only to have Firuz get up and jump out of the flame circle and into another deadly fight with the remaining ghost warriors.
Unsure what the eagles above were up to, Jihan looked along the length of the cliff.There were a few rocks jutting out.If they had a rope when they jumped off, they could tie it around the rocks, and save themselves a hard fall.
Jihan looked around the clearing.There were no trailing branches to use.If only…
His gaze shifted to the ghost warriors on the ground and the swords he had accumulated in the circle.An idea struck.He touched his waist and his eyes brightened at the leather belt he wore.Careful to keep within the circle, he pulled one of the fallen ghost warriors partially into the circle.He unwrapped the dark cloth around the warrior’s head not caring to look at the face of their attacker.The cloth was long.He stretched it with both hands and smiled when it seemed to match his arm length on both sides.Pushing the ghost warrior aside, he got to work accumulating as many cloths as he could get from the fallen.He worked fast, tying the cloths together as he moved.He undid his belt, leaving his outer robe free.Taking one end of the makeshift cloth rope, he looped it into his belt.
“Jihan, we need to move,” Firuz said, again his tone turning urgent as he pushed a ghost warrior off the tip of his sword.“There are more coming on the trees.They are fast and fresh.I don’t think we can keep up.”
Jihan held up the makeshift rope, and Firuz nodded.
“I have a rope of sorts,” Jihan said, getting up.His outer robe blew open, so he removed it and dropped it on the ground.“I don’t know if it can hold three, but we can try.”
“Choose a sturdy rock, and we’ll move there,” Firuz said, stopping two ghost warriors from getting to Jihan.
Jihan rushed to the largest rock jutting out that he could find and spent a few minutes tying the cloth around it.He tried to make it as tight as possible.If they were lucky, it would hold them until a ghost warrior took a sword to it.
“I’m done,” Jihan said, holding on to the end with the leather belt.“Lord Temu, come on.”
“Take him,” Temu said, swinging his sword with force, cutting down three ghost warriors coming at him.
Firuz pushed off the two ghost warriors near him, injuring each one enough to drop them.He ran to Jihan’s side, wrapped his left arm around Jihan’s waist, and moved them to the edge of the cliff.
“What about Lord Temu?” Jihan asked, refusing to move when Firuz took the leather belt in hand.“Lord Temu, hurry—"
“Protect your master,” Temu shouted at Firuz.
Above, more eagles had arrived, they flew closer to the ground, agitated as the ghost warriors swamped the clearing, pushing Lord Temu closer to where Jihan and Firuz stood.
Firuz pulled Jihan into his arms and before Jihan could protest the insanity of leaving Temu alone, Firuz jumped off the cliff.
Kastan pushed his horse to the limit his gaze on the eagles swirling down from the sky and the dark smoke marking Jihan’s location.He cleared the trees, the men in his command attacking the ghost warriors bombarding Temu without mercy.Then Kastan saw the worst sight of his life.
One moment, Jihan stood with Firuz on the edge of the cliff, and then they were falling off.Temu stood at the edge, guarding against ghost warriors.Heart in his throat, Kastan urged his horse harder, swinging his sword, taking down any ghost warriors on his path until he reached Temu.
“Jihan!” he called, his voice naked with panic and despair. “Jihan!”
Temu breathed in relief when the rogue ghost warriors were under control, his gaze on a dark cloth tied around a rock.It was coming untied, and Kastan held back his shout of panic as Temu lunged for the end catching it in time. Kastan dropped beside Temu, holding the black cloth, its weight enough to tell him that Jihan and Firuz were hanging on the other end. The thought of them crashing down almost drove him to madness.
“Jihan!” he called out needing to hear Jihan's voice.
Jihan gasped as their make shift cloth rope stopped their descent.Leaving him and Firuz suspended over a mile deep of forested cliff below.
Jihan wrapped his arms around Firuz, afraid.Firuz held the cloth holding them tight.
“If you’re here, pull us up,” Jihan called back, fighting back tears of relief.“Firuz is holding on.Make it fast.”
“Jihan.” Kastan said, and then proceeded to order the men with him to pull them up.“Do it quick.Faster.”
“He won’t let you out of his sight for months,” Firuz said, his tone filled with amusement, as they started moving up inch by inch.
Jihan closed his eyes, tears stinging the back of his lids.
“I don’t think we should leave Silver Shore for months.Firuz, we should stay hidden for a while, avoid trouble.This is the hardest you’ve ever had to fight for my life.”
“It’s what I’m here for,” Firuz murmured.“Plus, your husband didn’t let you down either. He managed to make it in time.”
Jihan nodded, pressing his forehead into Firuz’s shoulder.Once again, he wondered what he would have done without Firuz.If it weren’t for Firuz, he might have been long dead.
“Don’t think about it,” Firuz said, as though reading his thoughts.
Jihan lifted his head, leaning back to check Firuz’s eyes.The dark was fading away from the whites of his eyes.The rope dipped and Kastan gave a wild curse above them.
Jihan smiled at how scared he sounded. His heart swelled with love.
The officers with Kastan grabbed Firuz’s arm first, holding him steady as they pulled Firuz up.Jihan let go of Firuz when strong arms grabbed his arms and he was lifted away from the edge of the cliff.
He barely had time to catch a breath when strong arms wrapped around him and pulled him into a tight hug.So tight, he worried he might suffocate.
“Don’t do that to me ever again,” Kastan said, his voice rough as he spoke, his face buried into Jihan’s shoulder.“Ever, I don’t ever want to see you jumping off a cliff again.Do you hear me?You’re forbidden from getting near any more cliffs in your life.”
Jihan could only nod, as Kastan held him so tight, speaking was a problem.
Tears filled his eyes as he realized he had almost lost this.Almost lost having Kastan hold him.If Firuz had made a misstep, or the ghost warriors had cut their rope and they really plunged the remaining height of the cliff….
Jihan wasn’t aware of the sob escaping his lips.
Kastan heard it though, getting up from the hard rocky ground, he lifted Jihan along with him. Jihan wrapped his arms around Kastan’s neck, and was surprised when Kastan lifted him higher so that he could wrap his legs around his husband’s waist. Kastan’s strength comforting, as Jihan sobbed into his shoulder overwhelmed with relief and shock in equal measure.
They stood like that for a long while, until Jihan could breathe without shaking.
When he could speak, Jihan asked, “Rashan?”
“He’s home,” Kastan said.“He’s safe.”
“That’s good,” Jihan nodded, tired.“Then, let’s hunt whoever did this down.I want to know who would dare put Rashan in danger like this.”
“Imperial Consort’s order is mine,” Kastan said, his tone menacing.“All Generals will hunt the owner of these ghost warriors down.Overturn every noble house in the empire if you have to.Find the mastermind.”