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Nie Huaisang gripped the needle—steel, made from the same metal as their sabers—and drew the coarse black thread through dead flesh. In and out, in and out. He would entrust this task to no one else.

The corpse shuddered under his hands, jolting his next stitch askew. Without looking up from his work, Nie Huaisang ordered, “Keep him quiet!”

In and out. He could feel the strain in the air, the resentful energy barely held back by the Nie disciples in their saber formation.

“Hush, da-ge,” he murmured. “It will be over soon, and then you can rest.”