Du An Pharmacy, Inner courtyard…
Zhang Sun was sitting by the bedside, gazing at the unconscious Qing Ning with an anguished look on her face. Qing Ning was brought up by her since young and was the only person she was able to confide in ever since she entered the palace.
The Imperial family was heartless, while the palace was full of factions and their various schemes. She was already up to one’s eyes in work and was extremely worn out. The young Qing Ning had quietly been by her side ever since young, helping her shoulder the duties of the palace both big and small, every day, the same as the last for the past seven years.
Her mullings were suddenly interrupted by a knock from outside the room door. Coming back to her senses, she gently said, “The door’s unlocked, enter.”
“Your Majesty, I’m back.”
A familiar voice rang out in her ear. As she turned her head towards the source of that voice, she ignored the smiling Ning Chen in front of her and instead focused on the Marquis standing behind him.
Zhang Sun’s eyes widened, a rare tinge of excitement in them.
“Wuyou, it’s been hard on you.”
He lightly sighed as he looked at this beautiful yet slightly aged sister of his, lamenting the scars left on his sister’s face by time.
At the side, Ning Chen’s smile was as radiant as ever as he tried his hardest to widen his eyes. Did you see that? That’s all thanks to me. Praise me. Hurry up and praise me.
However, in her excitement, Zhang Sun had completely forgotten about him. As for Marquis Taiping, he didn’t even care. As such, the hero of the day was heartlessly thrown to the side.
Thankfully, Zhang Sun wasn’t a normal person. She quickly calmed herself down and turned to her subject.
“Huh?” Ning Chen’s face lit up instantly. So you’ve finally remembered your hero, come on straighten that back and look me in the eyes. Praise me, I’m listening.
“Please leave us alone for a moment, I have something to discuss with Marquis Taiping.”
Ning Chen left the room with tears in his eyes and his heart broken.
“That boy is pretty good.”
Marquis Taiping considered for a while before stopping to remind her. Bold, intelligent and steady, he was a good seedling that would bloom into an influential person if groomed well.
Zhang Sun looked at her brother slightly shocked. The number of people who received his praise was very little; they could be counted on one hand.
Marquis Taiping gave a short summary of the day’s events. As she listened, she silently nodded. His actions clearly impressed her as well. In the midst of her silent praising, was a lamentation that her nephew was such a failure.
“Yunxuan is still young, just punish him and let the matter rest; don’t sour your father son relationship.” Strangely, Zhang Sun didn’t bring up Ning Chen and instead changed the subject.
Marquis Taiping nodded and said, “I have my own thoughts regarding this matter, don’t worry. Wuyou, what’s the reason for you leaving the palace? Putting yourself in such danger isn’t like your cautious way of doing things at all.”
“The circumstances demanded so.” She sighed and continued, “I’m sure elder brother is aware of the situation up north. The mongols aren’t the mongols of yesteryear while the Xia Emperor is unable to dispatch troops because of heaven’s will. Only our father stationed in the north is able to dispatch troops.”
“I heard some rumors but I didn’t expect the situation to be so grave. To think they would become a threat to us in the end…” Marquis Taiping’s face fell as he said this. The former barbarians of yesteryear had now come back to bite them in the back; truly an unexpected development.
“To the ministers in the court, their impression of the mongols are still stuck at 10 years ago, causing them to underestimate the mongols. Such a pity that heaven’s will had played a prank on us humans. The Xia Emperor finally managed to get them to dispatch troops but was foiled in the end by this phenomenon.”
Zhang Sun’s heart was heavy as she said this. If they missed out on this timing, Grand Xia would have to pay a price that no one could estimate. However, one thing was certain, that price was bound to be heavy.
The mongol horde had been boosting their manpower all these years and this recruitment had long been exposed. Grand Xia’s troops in the northern region were no longer able to hold off this new Mongol Horde. The matter of dispatching troops was one that must not be delayed.
“In the end, the source of the problem is still the Eternal Night Cult. This thousand year old organization has control over the faith of the masses. Their influence is, to say the least, terrifying.”
Marquis Taiping wasn’t a common man after all. He knew the reason why the Xia Emperor could not dispatch troops. While Grand Xia was strong, it wasn’t strong to the point where it could take on the world. The coming of this omen heralded war. If they dispatched troops now, the Eternal Night Cult would use this as an excuse to topple the Grand Xia.
The scariest part was that this was just the beginning. The Mongol Horde and the Eternal Night Cult had taken up too much of Grand Xia’s resources and attention. Without their supervision, some of the old factions who had submitted to Grand Xia might start to stir.
Having dominated the central plains for so long, Grand Xia had long since become the public enemy. All that these people were waiting for, was a chance.
The central plains was a wealthy piece of land that everyone wanted a bite of. To these ravenous wolves, she was merely a piece of fatty meat. Right now, Grand Xia’s dominant military might was still unshaken so no one dared to move. But if there came a time when the tides turned against Grand Xia and a coalition formed. All these hidden powers would surface once more and show their hidden fangs.
“Wuyou, let me send you back to the palace first.”
Time was of the essence now and Marquis Taiping knew he shouldn’t waste anymore time. The faster he moved to reinforce the north, the faster Grand Xia’s plight would get resolved. The time for hesitation was now gone.
An hour later, a carriage was already waiting in the courtyard. As a subject, it was naturally Ning Chen’s duty to carry Qing Ning into the carriage.
“Uncle Manager, don’t forget to head to the Ling Yan pavilion and pay off my tea debt. I’ll pay you back when I get my salary.” He didn’t want to leave his newfound freedom and tried to stall but after seeing the expression on Zhang Sun’s face, he reluctantly followed her back to the palace.
By the time, they got back to the palace, the sky had turned dark. Marquis Taiping couldn’t enter the palace unnecessarily so he left after seeing her to the gate.
“What’s the matter?”
As they entered the palace, they noticed that the atmosphere in the palace was off, the palace guards were all out and about as if something big had just happened.
“What has happened?” Zhang Sun had Ning Chen stop a palace guard and ask.
“Reporting to Her Majesty, someone has broken into the Imperial Study and His Majesty is furious right now. He has ordered a search of the entire palace.” The leader of the guards respectfully replied.
Ning Chen was stunned by this news, his heart was thumping rapidly at this moment.
“Ning Chen, bring Qing Ning to her room first, this Empress has to make a trip to the Revelations Hall.” Zhang Sun got off the carriage and instructed him.
“Yes.” Ning Chen lowered his head, avoiding her gaze. He was really concerned at the moment, that silly girl better not have done anything stupid.
After she left, Ning Chen immediately brought Qing Ning with him as he headed to Weiyang Palace. Because of his haste, he didn’t even notice the light sigh in the carriage.
After reaching Weiyang Palace, he carried her back to her room and immediately took off for his own room. What he didn’t notice was that behind him, a pair of bright eyes were wide open, silently staring at him as he left.
As he opened the door, the sight that greeted him was of a beautiful girl dressed in blood soaked clothes, collapsed on his bedside. Ning Chen’s eyes opened wide in shock as he immediately closed the doors behind him before carrying the girl to his bed.
As she laid there, her lifeforce fading, propriety between a man and a woman was the least of his worries. He tore off her sleeves with a loud ripping sound and revealed a deep sword wound on her right shoulder. Other than that, there was no other wound.
Ning Chen was in a state of panic right now. The sword wound wasn’t fatal and had only caused her to faint but he did not know this. After all, he had no real medical knowledge and couldn’t judge the severity of this wound.
“Medicine, that’s right, the medicine.”
He immediately thought of the medicine Mu Chengxue had given him. He prayed in his heart that there would at least be one pill left. He gritted his teeth as he desperately searched.
“It’s not there?”
His face paled at that instant. He didn’t know what to do.
What to do? What to do? This was the first time he had ever felt so helpless.
“I must think of a way to leave the palace.”
After considering for a moment, he steeled his heart as he made that decision. He picked up Mu Chengxue and headed out of his room. Thankfully, the carriage he had driven back was a good camouflage.
On his way into the palace, a lot of the palace guards had seen him. Now was the best time to leave.
He didn’t know what would happen if he left now, but that didn’t matter. If he didn’t leave now, Mu Chengxue would die for sure. He wasn’t some saint but he wasn’t a coward either.
He had promised her that he would bring her out and a promise is a promise.
It was at this moment that room door was pushed open. Ning Chen stood on the spot frozen, his body trembling.
“Sister Qing Ning.”
Having recognized who it was, he breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully, it wasn’t a palace guard. But a moment later, he tensed up again.
He had almost forgotten that Qing Ning was Zhang Sun’s most loyal subject; she was a lot more dangerous than a palace guard.
“What are you doing here?”
Ning Chen was surprised by this turn of events. He was sure he had left no traces behind. Furthermore, Qing Ning had been unconscious all this while, there was no way she would have known.
“You aren’t usually a careless person, the only way you wouldn’t have noticed that I was awake was if your mind was preoccupied with something,” Qing Ning said in a cold voice, her face still as pale as ever as she blocked the doorway.
“She’s the assassin who entered the palace isn’t she. Ning Chen, you disappoint me greatly.”
Qing Ning coldly gazed at the girl in Ning Chen’s arms. Who would’ve thought that the assassin all the palace guards were looking for was actually hidden right in Weiyang Palace. This was a serious mistake on her part.
Ning Chen sighed heavily. He knew that explaining was pointless and so he took action. He retreated a couple of steps and pulled the rope by his bedside. In that instant, the door slammed shut and a rope net fell silently from the ceiling.
Qing Ning had sensed that something was off and tried to leave, but she felt a tug in her chest which disrupted her breathing slightly. That slight delay had slowed her down enough for the net to fall onto her.
Ning Chen would’ve never thought that the trap he had set up would one day be used on Qing Ning. Fortunately, she had just woken up and had difficulty moving. If it wasn’t for this, this trap would’ve been useless.
“Sister Qing Ning, I’m sorry about this.”
He put down Mu Chengxue and immediately went up to her and bound her hands and feet. Having done so, he lifted the net and carried her to his bed.
“Whether you believe me or not, I just want to say that I’ve never had any intention of harming you or Her Majesty. It was merely a coincidence that I met Mu Chengxue on the day I entered the palace. She helped me so I must help now. This was my promise to her. It’s a promise that I cannot and will not break.”
He said in quivering voice as he covered her with a blanket. He knew that if he left now, they would never meet again. Ever since he arrived in this world, the person who had treated him the best within these short few days was her. He didn’t want to hide anything from her but he didn’t want to lie to her either.
Having done all this, he picked up Mu Chengxue once more and headed out. As he stepped out of the doorway, he turned around and looked at Qing Ning once more. With his usual radiant grin, he said:
“Lastly, I have something I had always wanted to tell you, but didn’t dare to do so. Sister Qing Ning, with your fierce temperament, who would dare to marry you in the future.”
With a quick slam of the door, he turned around and left. Atop the bed, Qing Ning stared at the door intently. A moment later, her tense body began to relax.
She didn’t know if what she just did was right, but she knew for sure that she didn’t regret it. Not now, not ever.
He was still as stupid as ever. Why didn’t he realize that just because she couldn’t dodge the net, didn’t mean that she couldn’t break free.
Thankfully, he was still as stupid as ever…