Ever wondered what a kite felt like as it soared through the air? Ning Chen knew exactly how it felt and this wasn’t his first time either. In the midst of his conversation, he was whisked away and before he knew it, he was already in the palace.
He was wrecked with regret at the moment; he hadn’t even told Yue Hanyi his conditions yet. If he knew about this earlier, he would’ve concluded that deal in an instant. Well, it’s too late for that, the chicken has flown the coop and he was left with nothing.
Seeing that he was in still a daze, Qing Ning had a sudden urge to kick him in the shins, she warned him in a strict tone, “Her Majesty is in a bad mood right now so make sure you watch your words.”
“Hmm, huh?” He answered with a grunt, anxiety gripping his heart. Did she really intend to paddle him…
“Sister Qing Ning, you’ve got to put in a good word for me!” He shamelessly pleaded.
“So, you know to be afraid, why didn’t you think of the consequences before escaping?” She replied without a hint of patience in her voice.
“Ha ha.” He laughed awkwardly, how would he know that he would be caught so easily.
“Sister Qing Ning, how did you find me?” He asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.”
Without holding anything back, she said, “Earlier today, I had already spotted you on the streets before you even saw me. As for why I didn’t catch you immediately, I simply wanted to see where you were hiding.”
“…” He wanted to slap himself right now. Wasn’t this the same as him giving himself up? What shoes…why couldn’t he have waited for another two more days.
“Let’s go, Her Majesty’s waiting.” She quickened her pace as she hurried him in a concerned tone.
While he still wasn’t willing to do so, he knew that there was no avoiding this matter anymore, all he could do was keep up with her and grit his teeth while taking his just desserts.
Within Weiyang Palace, its resplendent halls were as peaceful as ever, what wasn’t the same however, was its master. As she sat in the middle of the hall, the warm incandescent lights of the hall lamps illuminated her slender figure, revealing a beautiful yet fatigued face.
Compared to a few days ago, she was noticeably more haggard, the two sleepless nights had clearly taken a toll her waning radiance.
At her side was a stunning beauty of merely sixteen to seventeen years of age. Hidden beneath her light, flowing purple dress, was a snow white complexion that framed an exquisite, almost picturesque face with a sparkling pair of eyes that reminded one of a lake in autumn.
As he followed in her shadow, his eyes were drawn to the teenage girl beside Zhang Sun. His breathing stopped as he sharply inhaled, no wonder they say that her beauty could ruin countries and cities, the real person was every bit as beautiful as rumored.
“Definitely a ruinous beauty!”
He quietly exclaimed to himself, his attention completely captivated by the breathtaking beauty in front of him.
At the side, Qing Ning was beside herself as she stared at the gaping fool. She wanted to remind him but couldn’t do so. In the presence of the Ninth Princess, doing so would be a breach of etiquette.
Zhang Sun banged the table, causing the nearby teacup to fall over, drenching the floor and table in tea as it rolled around on the table.
“So you still know to come back!” She shouted, eyebrows furrowed as she stood up.
His body jumped in fright, his attention immediately drawn back to the situation. As he raised his head to check, what greeted him was the smothering gaze of Zhang Sun. He immediately lowered his head in guilt once more.
“This one is wrong.” He admitted his wrongdoing in the most sincere and regretful tone he could muster.
At the side, Xia Xinyu had received a fright as well. This was the first time she had seen her Royal Mother that angry in all her years growing up. Curiosity filled her heart as she sneaked a peek at Ning Chen once more.
Seeing the remorse on his face, Zhang Sun suppressed her anger and said, “Speak, tell me where were you wrong!”
Ning Chen paused at the question, giving it serious thought before muttering in a low voice, “I shouldn’t have locked up Sister Qing Ning, I shouldn’t have taken the palace furniture without permission, I shouldn’t have falsified an edict from your Majesty, I shouldn’t have absconded from the palace.”
At that last sentence, he stopped once more, giving it more thought as if he was afraid he might’ve forgotten to mention something else and end up angering her. “I…I shouldn’t have tried to bargain with your Majesty and refused to return.”
Having said that, he turned to Qing Ning. Afraid that he had left out something, he quietly signalled to her with his mouth, “Is there anything else?”
“…” She turned away, acting as if she didn’t see him.
“Good, very good, if you didn’t say so, this Queen wouldn’t have known that you committed so many wrongdoings.”
Hearing him confess to his crimes, her chest rose as the fires within threatened to burst forth once more, her face even darker than before. Even Xia Xinyu was taken aback by the string of wrongdoings. She gaped at the little eunuch who had just admitted to the long list of crimes, each of these warranted a death penalty. Having committed them all, it wouldn’t surprise her if he was cut into pieces.
“You tell me exactly how I should deal with you!”
Ning Chen was immediately put in a difficult spot, truthfully, he couldn’t answer that question. After all, he still didn’t want to get cut into pieces. He threw Qing Ning a pleading look, “Big Sister, put me in a word for me please.”
Qing Ning heart softened at his look, glaring at him one last time, she took a step forward and said in a soft voice, “Your Majesty, Ning Chen is already aware of his wrongdoings, right now the matter with Zhenji takes precedence, why not give him a chance to redeem himself?”
Zhang Sun pretended to hesitate for a moment before lightly nodding. She never intended to execute him but this kid was simply too much of a troublemaker, if she didn’t give him a proper scare, she really couldn’t vent out her anger.
She never expected that after rejecting his request to leave the palace, he would actually dare to abscond and even succeeded!
She turned to Ning Chen and said in a gentler tone, “Since Qing Ning has pleaded on your behalf, this Queen will forgive you for now. But while you’ve been spared the death penalty, you must still face a penalty. Since you wish to leave the palace that much, this Queen will confine you for half a year. Within this half a year, you mustn’t take a single step out of Weiyang Palace!”
Half a year? He gave his lips a smack out of frustration but dared not to voice any opposition, instead he had to express his thanks. “Many thanks for Her Majesty’s leniency.”
With all that fanfare at the start, the outcome was surprisingly muted. By now, the Ninth Princess was left speechless from this turn of events, compared to all the crimes he had committed, confinement for half a year was nothing.
With this minor matter settled, Zhang Sun recollected her emotions once more before turning back to the matter of Zhenji.
“This is the Ninth Princess, you shouldn’t have met her before.” She introduced in a straight tone.
“Good day, Ninth Princess.” He bowed slightly.
“…” She was startled once more, she hadn’t seen such a greetings before and couldn’t react to it.
Atop the center seat, Zhang Sun’s anger rose up once more despite having just been suppressed. “Qing Ning, make sure to teach him some etiquette during his confinement period, what kind of nonsense is this?”
“Understood.” She sighed helplessly.
Zhang Sun reached out and gripped the seat handles, applying pressure on them as she suppressed her anger once more. Turning towards Ning Chen, she said in a grave tone, “Ning Chen, you mentioned that you could solve the problem given by Zhenji? Is this true?”
Upon hearing this, Xia Xinyu’s body quaked slightly, she turned to the little eunuch who had already given her multiple surprises today. She simply couldn’t believe that he actually knew the answer to this question that even the wisest men in the empire couldn’t answer.
Receiving the intense attention of both of these ladies at the same time immediately caused him to cave in, he honestly replied, “Definitely.”
“What do you need?”
Her weight on her heart immediately lightened upon hearing this, while this kid had a ton of problems, she knew that his intelligence was just as formidable. During crucial moments like these, his opinion was always one to be taken note of.
“A pot of oil, some vinegar and a jug of water, a used one.” He replied with a straight face.
“Qing Ning, dispatch the servants to retrieve these items.” She immediately sent out the order.
“Understood.” Qing Ning said, leaving right as the words left her mouth.
With time to spare in the meantime, Zhang Sun voiced out the doubt in her mind, “Adding vinegar to oil has already been tested by someone, it was proven to not work.”
“It definitely won’t work.” He nodded as he replied.
According to urban legend, due to the addition of vinegar to the oil, the temperature of the oil would just about be 45 degrees celsius when the vinegar started boiling in the oil. Each time he read this however, he felt like giving these people a tight slap.
A number of people had even claimed that Vinegar would boil at over 60 degrees or even 30 degrees celsius. This couldn’t even be considered nonsense anymore. If they would just use their brains for a second, they would realize how ludicrous this was. The temperature during summer would sometimes reach the sweltering heights of 40 degrees celsius but has anyone ever reported that their vinegar started boiling on its own?
In reality, vinegar is just a mixture of water and acetic acid. Acetic acid has a boiling point of around 118 degrees celsius while water’s boiling point is at 100. No matter how you mix the two up, their combined boiling point would at least be above a hundred, if you stuck your hand in at this moment, even a piece of beef would get cooked let alone a human’s hand.
Thankfully, he didn’t put any stock in this urban legend otherwise he would’ve angered Zhang Sun once more.
A moment later, a pot of oil was set up in the courtyard by the eunuchs and maids of Weiyang Palace. Upon receiving permission to enter the room, Qing Ning sent off the servants after the pot was set up.
With the initial setup finished, Zhang Sun and Xia Xinyu walked out into the courtyard, ready to see what he had up his sleeves.
With the fire still burning beneath the pot, Ning Chen immediately got down to work. He fiddled with the water jug and removed the water alkali inside. A quick smash of his fists later, he tossed the now broken up water alkali into the oil pot.
Finally, he added the vinegar into the pot before stepping back and waiting.
“That’s it?” Zhang Sun asked in a surprised voice.
“That’s it” He nodded truthfully. To him, this wasn’t a difficult question to begin with.
As expected, the pot began to smoke after a short while. In fact, the smoke was getting thicker by the second.
“Your Majesty, would you like to give it a try?” Ning Chen suggested.
She hesitantly walked up and placed her hand over the top of the pot, upon confirming that it wasn’t that hot, she stuck it in.
Given that the oil was still slightly warm, she finally believed in him. As she looked at Ning Chen, her expression betrayed the conflicted emotions within. The problem that had stumped them for two days was settled so easily…this sudden turn of events had left her extremely conflicted.
A moment later, she finally came back to her senses. As she took out a handkerchief and wiped her hands, she calmly said, “That’s enough, you may return to your confinement in your room. This Queen still has some matters to discuss with the Ninth Princess.”
“Understood.” He nodded, his face clearly upset. This was an abuse of authority! Killing the donkey as it left the millstone! Tearing down the bridge after crossing it! She’s just too heartless!
Upon seeing him leave with head hung low and dejected, Zhang Sun’s beautiful face finally broke into a smile, she looked at Xia Xinyu and said lightly, “Are you reassured now?”
“Mhm, thank you Royal Mother.” With the weight lifted off her heart, she was in a visibly better mood as she gently replied with a smile on her face.
“Qing Ning, make sure to watch that kid, ensure that he doesn’t try to run away again.”
In the midst of her admiration, she didn’t let her guard down either; this kid was just too unpredictable. She was extremely sure that if given the chance, this kid would try to run away again.
It was through sheer luck that they managed to find him this time around, if he were to escape once more, given his personality, he would definitely pick a hiding place where they will never be able to find him.
She then turned towards her daughter and said, making sure to stress the point, “Xinyu, make sure to keep this matter a secret. Understood?”
“Xinyu understands.” She replied, straight faced, with a nod.
“Alright, I’m tired as well, you may leave first. Qing Ning, send off the princess for me.” With this matter finally over, her fatigue got the better of her.
“Then your daughter will leave now.” She curtsied before leaving with Qing Ning in tow.
Outside of Weiyang Palace, Xia Xinyu finally couldn’t restrain her curiosity and asked, “Big Sister Qing Ning, what’s Ning Chen’s background? Why does Royal Mother treat him so leniently?”
She gave it some thought before replying, “All this servant can say is, during the previous assassination attempt on her Majesty, her Majesty wouldn’t have made it back if not for Ning Chen. As for the details, it would be better if Ninth Princess asked her Majesty herself.”
As she said this, she paused for a moment before continuing, “Princess, Ning Chen is new to the palace and still isn’t aware of the rules here. If he were to offend Ninth Princess in the future, I hope that Ninth Princess would see it in her heart to forgive him.”
Xia Xinyu nodded, the curiosity in her heart growing stronger as she did so. She was very familiar with Qing Ning’s personality. Despite her affable appearance, she was actually very hard to get close to. Except for her Royal Mother, this was the first time she had seen her care for someone.
Looks like she has to report this unexpected development to her Royal Brother…