Zhang Sun Yunxuan laid on the ground, curled up and twitching; he had fainted from the pain of Ning Chen’s consecutive kicks. As he walked up to his target, a thought occurred to him. He turned to that girl who had given him the ink and asked with a bright smile on his face, “Big sister, can the ink be erased?”
The girl reeled back subconsciously and replied in a slightly quivering voice, “It won’t, that’s the Thousand Year Ink.”
As the words left her mouth Ning Chen’s eyes brightened up, his smile even more radiant than ever, but strangely also colder than ever.
Not too far away stood a slightly frowning Yue Hanyi. She watched passively from the side, not intending to interfere in the least. The type of people who would raise a hand against Zhang Sun Yunxuan even after knowing his background fell into two categories: crazy people or people with a frightening background. As for which category he fell into, she did not know.
Another matter concerned her as well, that hint of disgust in his eyes…was it directed at her or Ling Yan Pavilion?
With all these unanswered questions in her mind, she chose to stand aside for the moment. As long as no one got killed in this altercation, any ensuing trouble would not affect the Ling Yan Pavilion.
Ning Chen kneeled with his back facing the ladies, his actions completely obscured from the watching crowd. A moment later, he stood up and a couple of badly written words could be seen on Yunxuan’s face. The words “Zhang Sun” were barely discernable without focusing on them.
He then took out the jade pendant Zhang Sun had given him and pressed it in ink. With a vicious press of his hand, the pendant’s seal was imprinted in ink onto the young master’s forehead.
“Why aren’t the authorities and the soldiers from Zhang Sun estate here yet?” He griped as he looked around. The entrance of the Pavilion was getting more crowded by the second and yet the authorities were still nowhere in sight, their inefficiency annoyed him slightly, though for a pretty unique reason.
By most accounts, Zhang Sun’s young master getting beaten up was a major event so it shouldn’t take long for the authorities and Zhang Sun Estate to react.
“May this young lady enquire about Sir’s identity?” The passive Yan Hanyi stepped forth at this moment and politely asked.
“I’ve got no time for that.” He curtly rejected her, the coldness in his gaze, barely disguised.
He could no longer suppress the disgust he felt nor did he want to. Prostitution didn’t make one detestable, what’s detestable is the person. He hated brothel workers and managers who despite their affable exterior, were actually heartless bastards.
Her face darkened but quickly reverted back to her professional smile after taking a deep breath. Given the uncertainty involved, she had no choice but to endure this slight. In a calm tone, she said, “Yue Hanyi has no recollection of having offended Sir, would Sir be so kind as to elaborate?”
In the face of her questioning, Ning Chen maintained his cold exterior and instead turned to the girl who sent him the writing tolls and returned the ink and brush. With a wide grin on his face, he thanked her.
“Thanks Big sister.”
“It’s…alright,” she replied, her tone tense and full of fear.
The girl’s display of fear made him feel a sense of helplessness. Perhaps his previous display was simply too violent?
However, this self-admonishment disappeared in an instant. Ahem, he definitely wasn’t to blame. If there’s someone who should be blamed, it should be that young master. Who told him to be such an unlucky failure.
In a display of arrogance, he swaggered up to a table and sat down. He poured himself a cup of tea and casually drank his tea as if he was the only one in the room. Seems like beating up a person was hard work as well. He had just drank a cup of tea recently and was thirsty once more.
Yue Hanyi and the girls helplessly looked at him. They didn’t know how to react to this arrogant master, and so, chose to wait for the authorities.
“Stand aside, stand aside!”
A short while later, said authorities finally arrived on the scene. The leading official stared in horror at the unconscious Yunxuan on the floor; he knew this was going to be a serious matter.
This was the sole son of Taiping Marquis, the nephew of the Empress. How did he get so beat up?
As he turned to the nonchalant “master” sipping his tea, his vexation went through the roof.
“Bring him in.”
The official gritted his teeth as he gave the order. Now wasn’t the time to worry about this master’s background. If he truly had such an influential background, then that person would come to collect him. The best course of action was to take things a step at a time.
Seeing the long awaited authorities approach him, he practically leaped into their arms as he happily got off his seat and walked up to them, confusing the already vexed official.
It wasn’t long before the people from Zhang Sun Estate came to collect Zhang Sun Yunxuan from the official bureau. As for Ning Chen, he was thrown into jail to await his trial.
This was his first time in jail but it didn’t cause him much concern. He knew he would be released soon.
As he sat in his cell with nothing to do, he picked up a wooden stick and began playing chess with himself on a chessboard he drew on the ground. The match went by quickly at first but as the game progressed, the number of pieces became more and more. Each move he took, ate up more of his time as he cycled through all the possible scenarios. The game was about to reach its climax and every step he took could be his last.
Life was like a chess match and just like in chess, there was one who plotted and another who foiled the plot. Even for a dense block of wood like him, the situation he was in was clear as day. He had stumbled unknowingly into the schemes of his opponent, and now had to extricate himself. If he didn’t, it would be checkmate for him.
His brows furrowed as he sat there staring at the chessboard, pondering his moves.
Why did someone try to assassinate Zhang Sun?
If Zhang Sun got into an accident, who would be the beneficiary?
While he had only been in this world for a short while and hence didn’t know much, there was always a thread that connected the dots waiting to be discovered. The reaction from Zhang Sun and Qing Ning the night before was truly unusual. Furthermore, given that Zhang Sun had left the palace in a rush the very next day after that incident, the assassination had to have been connected to Mars staying at Antares.
Mars staying at Antares was a sign of war and monumental change but this wasn’t much of a concern. This phenomenon happened every 15 years or so and couldn’t be considered as a momentous event. There were times that it was conspicuous and times that it was just a weak sign. If Grand Xia could be so easily affected by this, this thousand year dynasty should’ve been wiped out several times over.
If so, why did Zhang Sun have such a large reaction to it?
He sighed lightly and tossed his stick aside. If his assumptions were correct, Zhang Sun most likely carried a secret edict from the Emperor. What’s more, it was the kind that no one must know about.
If you added in the matters of Mars staying at Antares and its confidentiality, the result was very clear. The Xia Emperor wanted to dispatch troops and these troops were from the family of Zhang Sun.
If so, the assassination of Zhang Sun finally made sense. Someone had guessed the Xia Emperor’s intentions and had even predicted the timing of Zhang Sun’s departure. That person wanted to make use of this opportunity to drive a rift between the Emperor and the Zhang Sun family and thus delaying the troop’s sortie.
As this thought occurred to him, a chill ran down his spine. If all these were true, the person who plotted this was truly terrifying.
The reason he was able to see through all these events was because he had the benefit of hindsight. The one who caused these chain of events didn’t possess such a benefit and had to rely solely on his foresight. It took an extraordinary person to do so.
Unfortunately for Ning Chen, he was dragged into such an extraordinary person’s scheme by Qing Ning. By now, he couldn’t distance himself from this scheme even if he wanted to.
Given the chance, he would definitely avoid such a devious scheme; a scheme where one could die without even knowing why or without having the opportunity to put up a fight.
The only option left was to save Zhang Sun and be wary of the mastermind.
Thankfully, the scheme wasn’t aimed at him. As long as he laid low, he wouldn’t end up in a terrible state like today’s.
“They should be arriving any second now.”
He stood up and looked at the entrance to the dungeon. According to his calculations, they should be here soon.
Zhang Sun Estate, Taiping Marquis’s room…
Zhang Sun Yunxuan knelt on the floor with a terrified look on his face. Standing in front of the bookcase before him was a middle-aged man with an extremely cold look on his face. The veins on his forehead clearly visible as the man clenched his fists in a bid to suppress his anger.
“Beast of a son!”
In a fit of rage, Taiping Marquis furiously smacked the desk in front him, tossing away the inkstone lying atop the desk.
Blood dripped from Yunxuan’s head as the inkstone collided with his forehead. Seeing this, a beautiful middle-aged lady immediately rushed forward and hugged him, an anguished look on her face as she glared at the culprit.
“Master Marquis, your son has just been beaten up and instead of avenging him, you even want to beat him to death?!”
“Shut up!” The air trembled as his fury exploded once more, while his palm violently swept through the desk, knocking all of its contents off.
“Just because I choose not to hit a woman doesn’t that mean you can be so presumptuous, get out!” With a wave of his sleeves, he threw his wife out of the room.
As the door to the study room shut, the vast room was now empty except for the father and son duo. Zhang Sun Yunxuan’s trembling grew even stronger.
“Are you aware that your Aunt is in trouble?” The iciness apparent in his voice as he said so.
“I’m aware.” He stammered as he lowered his head.
“Are you aware that our entire estate is busy looking for the whereabouts of your Aunt?”
“Good, very good.”
That “good” was barely able to contain the rage in his voice as he said so. With a swift step forward, he viciously slapped Yunxuan on the face. A loud bang rang out in the room as he was thrown five steps away into the nearby screen.
He could tolerate a lot of things, but the safety of Zhang Sun was where he drew the line.
Zhang Sun Yunxuan violently spit out a mouthful of blood, but kept his silence, not daring to protest the pain.
“You better reflect on this as you stay in this study room. You are not allowed to take a step out of this room without my permission.”
As he finished saying this, he stepped out to a furiously waiting wife. He turned to his wife and coldly said, “If you dare to let him out or if he tries to escape…you know the consequences. Zhang Sun Estate doesn’t tolerate just anyone staying within it. Even if that anyone is the wife and son of Marquis Taiping.”
Her body froze as she heard this, her anger replaced by fear in an instant. She knew that he meant what he said.
Half an hour later, in the official bureau’s dungeon, the jail doors were opened and the pair finally locked eyes.
Marquis Taiping and Ning Chen. Two people who, under normal circumstances would not have been able to meet each other, were now face to face, a calm and unfathomable look in their eyes.
“What’s your name?” After a moment, Marquis Taiping broke the silence.
“The younger generations has produced a hero.” He said, the praise and surprise in his voice barely hidden.
“Your Marquis is too kind.” Ning Chen humbly replied.
“Regretful.” Marquis Taiping suddenly sighed in a regretful tone.
While heroes came from all walks of life, their starting point determined how high they could go.
“Ah.” Ning Chen wasn’t affected by this. He knew what the marquis meant by “regretful” but this wasn’t important to him.
“Is her majesty well?” Marquis Taiping said in a serious tone.
“She’s safe and sound.”
“Let’s go. Bring me to her.”
“Your Marquis wishes to see her alone?” It was now Ning Chen’s turn to be surprised as he heard this.
“Hah.” Marquis flatly laughed and replied, “I’m all the forces we need.”
A simple reply without any hesitation, a reply so calm that it sounded like an everyday thing.
This was the the Marquis of Taiping, the strongest of the ten warrior marquis. The words Taiping were as heavy Mt. Tai! 
The fact that the family of Zhang Sun possessed two marquis wasn’t just a symbol of the Imperial family’s favor, but also of their astonishing power.
In the Zhang Sun estate, behind a set of tightly sealed doors, Zhang Sun Yunxuan struggled to his feet, the blood still fresh on his face. The words Zhang Sun were still clearly imprinted on his forehead as he violent coughed. Above his eyebrows, the black fang-like seal of the jade pendant was glaringly clear for all to see…
Footnotes: Mt Tai – The foremost mountain of the five great mountains of China. It is the site of many important ceremonies had great cultural significance in Chinese History. Usually used to express the severity/importance/magnitude of something. Eg. Being unable to see the Mt. Tai in front of oneself -> extreme ignorance of a certain matter.
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