A Cruel Romance - Volume 1 - Chapter 16

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Dead End

 

Commander Ho was not expecting a group of military police to charge into his residence and demand to arrest him for questioning .

The military police had arrived around noon . Over a hundred policemen surrounded the house immediately, and their sergeant began shouting his message, requesting Commander Ho’s presence .

Commander Ho was just sitting down at the dining table . Before he could pick up his chopsticks, he saw a pale-faced Adjutant Feng rush in . “Commander, a group of men has surrounded the house . They’re asking for you!”

Commander Ho paused for a moment . Dropping his chopsticks, he got up and strode toward a window . He parted the white curtains and glanced outside, identifying the policemen’s uniforms . “Give Jin Hwan-Ran a call . Tell him to send a regiment over . ”

Sounding an affirmation, Adjutant Feng ran out make the call, only to dash back in panic before the minute was up . “Commander, our phone line has been cut!”

Commander Ho scowled . “Get their speaker in here!”

Adjutant Feng hurried out to invite the police sergeant in, but the sergeant refused steadfastly . “We’re only following orders . Please, we only ask that Commander Ho grace us with his presence and accompany us on a short trip . ”

“Where to?” Adjutant asked .

“It’s nothing major, it’s just—” the sergeant faltered, “—just a meeting with a few commissioners of the Military Council . ”

“What’s the meeting for?”

“Well, that we really don’t know . ”

Adjutant asked no more, and hurried back to report to Commander Ho .

Commander Ho meditated for a moment with closed eyes, and had an idea .

“Including the guards and orderlies, how many men do we have?”

“About eighty . ”

“And weapons?”

“Just guns, and some hand grenades . ”

Commander Ho nodded . “That’s enough . ”

- : -

The policemen were not expecting those inside the house to suddenly open fire .

They began with the grenades . Explosions went off in the crowds, and soon the guards charged out with their guns . The policemen’s daily responsibilities had mostly consisted of standing on guard and catching thieves, and were clearly no match for actual soldiers who killed for a living . Besides, Commander Ho’s personal guards were elites among his men .

The police sergeant had anticipated some form of resistance, but he hadn’t expected it to be this sudden and fierce . As he had finally made it to the rank of sergeant and had several wives and children awaiting him back home, he was far from willing to risk his neck to arrest some bandit commander . After hiding from the bullets behind his car, he opened a door and climbed in, instructing the equally cowering driver: “Start the car! Are you waiting for your death?”

Since their sergeant has ran off, the policemen had no further desire to fight, but the soldiers had already charged out of the residence and gave them no chance to escape . The policemen fired blindly as they retreated—they hadn’t counted on killing anyone, but at such a close range, someone was bound to get shot every time a trigger was pulled . The policemen were great in number, the guards few; the guards were valiant, the policemen meek . The two sides had thus reached a delicate balance, and it was just enough for the chaotic scuffle to wage on .

Commander Ho could not risk to linger any longer in the house . His army was stationed outside the city, and now that he had lost contact with them, a lockdown of the city would render him helpless like a turtle in an urn .

If that happens—he’d be done for!

Under the adjutants’ cover, Commander Ho hurried down the stairs and ran to the entrance of the residence, where he got in a car, sped out of the city, and raced towards the main camp of the Twenty-Third Army .

- : -

Li Shih-Yao stood at the entrance of the barracks and stared idly into the sky .

His intent was to go on an appetite-stimulating stroll and prepare himself for the sumptuous dinner about to commence in an hour . He checked the weather and predicted the temperature of the following day, wondering whether he should discard his wadded jacket in favour of lighter clothes .

But unexpectedly, he spotted Commander Ho’s car .

Commander Ho’s car was a 1931 Bugatti . Not only was it unique in Hsian, it was so new that its surface was reflective, which was quite a sight on the streets . At the moment, this majestic Bugatti was bouncing violently along the uneven dirt road—if any car could go mad, it would be this one .

The car hopped toward Li and jolted to a stop with a screech . The rear doors opened and a disoriented Adjutant Feng jumped out of the car, a hand over his mouth as he raced to the car’s rear and began emptying his stomach violently .

Shortly after, Adjutant Li stepped out with a leather trunk and took a moment to regain his balance on the ground . Turning around, he reached a hand into the car, and like inviting a lady to a dance, pulled Commander Ho out elegantly .

His face pale, Commander Ho still looked somewhat composed . With one hand in Adjutant Li’s and one in his pocket, he looked up at the dumbstruck Li Shih-Yao . “Ts’ui had his men surround my residence . ”

His words cleared things up immediately . “He dared to attack you openly? Some audacity! Are you all right, Commander?”

“The Commander got hit in the arm,” Adjutant Li said in a low voice, “nothing serious . ”

- : -

The bullet had gone through Commander Ho’s upper right arm, missing the bone and leaving only a hole in the flesh . The wound was dribbling blood, but perhaps because Commander Ho was wearing a padded black silk jacket, Li didn’t detect anything unusual at first .

Commander Ho feared that news of his injury would damage the morale, and refused to even call a medic . He intended to simply have his arm bound with gauze, but Li disapproved . “Look at that tender skin . It will cause more trouble if you mistreat the wound and get it infected!”

Commander Ho, however, refused to budge . “I’m not that delicate . ”

Frustrated but resigned, Li brought Commander Ho to the resting area of his camp—it was a row of tiled-roofed brick houses, and apart from flush toilets, they housed most of the essential facilities . Dismissing the orderlies in the room, Li shut the door and fetched some bandages and half a bottle of liquor .

Li pulled out a chair and sat down in front of Commander Ho, and leaned forward to unbutton Commander Ho’s jacket . Commander Ho sat solemnly on his chair as if he couldn’t feel his wound .

As he removed the black jacket and revealed a while silk shirt, Li saw that the entire right-hand sleeve was drenched in blood .

“Fuck! Why’s there so much blood?” he said in alarm .

Fearing that he might feel faint at the sight of his own blood, Commander Ho closed his eyes and turned away . “I’m fine . ”

Li tore the shirt off as well, and pulled over the wounded arm . “Hold on, it’ll be over in a moment,” he said as he began to pour liquor over the wound .

Commander Ho gritted his teeth and lowered his head . His body trembled slightly, but he made no sound .

After rinsing the wound with liquor, Li sprinkled medical powder on it before wrapping the arm in gauze . He fetched a towel and wetted it to clean off the blood on Commander Ho’s arm .

“If it hurts too much, let out a few grunts or something . Nobody’s here to hear it anyway!” He took off his own dirty army coat and draped it over Commander Ho, and took the chance to rub the backs of his hands on Commander Ho’s skin, which seemed smoother than fine silk .

Commander Ho didn’t speak, and he certainly didn’t grunt .

Li stared down at Commander Ho’s chest . Two pink buds stood erect in the cool air, as if waiting to be pinched .

Li thought that his hands were too rough, and would probably pinch off a layer of Commander Ho’s skin on the spot .

“Why didn’t the bullet hit him on the thigh or in the ass?”

Li thought to himself .

- : -

It appeared that Commander Ho did have some real fortitude; at least, apart from Li Shih-Yao and the few adjutants in his company, no one could tell that he was injured . However, it would be a great mistake to assume that Commander Ho was a battle-hardened soldier .

In the following days, Li was put in charge of changing his dressing . Li enjoyed the extra duty—undressing Commander Ho garment by garment was like peeling a lychee; eventually the snowy pulp would be exposed, and one could imagine its juicy sweetness just by the sight .

In the end he couldn’t help himself, and groped Commander Ho firmly on the waist .

Commander Ho paid him no mind . “Your hands are like sandpaper,” he merely commented .

Li could have launched into a lengthy banter in response, but he still felt quite sheepish in front of the Commander—not that he was afraid of him . He simply had a guilty conscious .

- : -

Commander Ho would not suffer in vain . After catching his breath at the barracks, he immediately deployed his forces to storm Hsian .

Chairman Ts’ui failed to flee, and was captured along with his equally high-ranking followers . He waited for the Central Government to hold a parley and ransom him, but Commander Ho had no such intentions .

The men within Ts’ui’s faction of the Provincial Government were tied up and gagged before they were hauled onto a temporary platform erected in the market area, where soldiers pushed them into a straight line with the butts of their rifles .

A pistol in his left hand, Commander Ho got on the platform and advanced slowly from right to left, taking a single shot at each man .

Then the soldiers swarmed in and kicked the men to the ground . They stabbed their bayonets wildly into them and cut off their heads, which they later hung on telegraph poles for a public display .

- : -

Commander Ho had gotten his revenge for getting shot .

However, by killing Chairman Ts’ui, he had also cut off his own way out .

But he’d always believed that life was a path with no loops and no room for retreat . Retreat was nothing but another name for compromise .

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