It was a death that could be only be described as egregious. With all the experts gathered here, even if it meant dying to the blade of an ordinary guardsman, the wasteland wolf’s death would not have been such a tragedy. And yet, it died to the weakest of the weak, Ning Chen.
The wasteland wolf’s only consolation was that Ning Chen was at the very least, a first-grade “expert”. While his combat strength was atrocious, experience non-existent and no skills to speak of, he was a first-grade “expert”. Of course, that severe blade injury it suffered previously might have had something to do with its death as well.
Qing Ning’s lessons were truly wasted on him. Why? Because he completely forgot to use them at that crucial moment. As history has shown time and time again, in a life or death situation, men always fall back on the method they’re most familiar with. Half-baked techniques were the same as having none.
As the wasteland wolf drew its last breath, Ning Chen finally came to his senses. He stood there, aghast, as the gory scent penetrating every nook and cranny of his body.
Nausea got the better of him as he doubled over, violently retching as his face paled even more.
Those scant few seconds felt like years to him.
Meanwhile, the blades of the capital army had never stopped moving. The corpses of the wasteland wolves littered the entire battlefield, painting the earth a gory red, washing it with an acrid scent of blood.
The deep undertone of a flute echoed once more, heralding the advent of death. Their fur bristled as a new wave of bloodlust washed over the sea of wolves, driving them further into a frenzy. It was as if all the wasteland wolves in the plains were gathered here at this moment throwing themselves at the 500 strong guardsman line.
Suddenly, a sharp piercing sound of a razor raking against metal rang throughout the battlefield, followed closely by the long drawn out scream of a guardsman as he fell to the ground in a spray of blood.
Beneath the blooming crimson rose of blood, the torn set of armor pierced the psyche of all the combatants with a dreadful implication. Next to the fallen guardsman was a wasteland wolf roughly the size of a small hill, howling as it flexed its titanic frame. Even without looking at its razor-sharp claws, one could tell that this wolf wasn’t normal.
Almost simultaneously, a group of guardsmen fell, revealing the previously hidden wolves. Their icy cold glares swept across the battlefield as they stepped forth one by one, casting a deathly pall over the capital army like a grim reaper.
Wasteland Wolf Kings! Not just one but ten of them. The officer’s face paled as he lowered his blade subconsciously in despair.
Grand Xia’s iron smelting techniques were relatively advanced for its time, correspondingly, the armor on its soldiers were said to be nigh impenetrable. This was one of the key factors for Grand Xia’s thousand year dominance. Yet, this rule had just been broken by the claws of the wolf kings.
With the participation of these wolf kings, the injuries on the soldier’s side skyrocketed. It was at this moment, that the sword sitting atop the old man’s lap finally moved.
With a simple slash of his sword, a sword wave sliced through the air in a blinding flash. A split second later, a splurt of blood bloomed from the heads of three wolf kings; their heads falling to the floor alongside their blood.
An indescribable sword pressure radiated from the unsheathed sword, stunning the wolves as well as Ning Chen.
He couldn’t believe that a person’s strength could reach such a height. It was simply beyond the comprehension of an ordinary man.
It was at this moment that an arrow soared through the sky like a comet, flying unerringly towards the old man.
Ning Chen’s eyes narrowed, he knew that arrow; it was the same arrow severely injured Qing Ning during the attempt on Zhang Sun’s life.
The old man’s brows furrowed as he stared at the deadly arrow careening towards him. His gripped tightened on his ancient sword as he lifted it up, ready to block the oncoming onslaught.
Sword met with arrow in a dazzling display of sparks, the winds raged as the collision sent forth a massive shockwave that ripped his carriage apart. He had successfully blocked it.
However, that wasn’t the end of it as another arrow flew out. This time, the old man had no choice but to retreat, narrowly dodging arrow’s piercing shockwave. Unfortunately, this had all been planned by the assassin. Parked right behind him was the carriage of Miaoyu!
The old man’s sword was the last line of defense for the princess. Within twenty steps of it, no one could threaten her.
However, the old man retreated, and now she was no longer within 20 steps of him; his sword was no longer able to guard the princess.
In the blink of an eye, the heaven piercing arrow tore through the air and closed the gap between the carriage and itself in an instant.
Just as it was about to reach its objective, a silhouette leaped in between, blocking its path and shielding the delicate flower within.
The arrow stabbed into flesh, and with it, another blood rose bloomed in the air. Ning Chen’s body was thrown back by the immense force of the arrow, yet the arrow showed no signs of stopping its furious onslaught.
Ning Chen spat out a mouthful of blood before slumping to the ground.
It was then that a pair of slender arms reached out from his peripheries, and with one hand, caught the arrow while supporting his body with the other.
No one knew when she made her move, all they saw was Princess Miaoyu’s hands quietly grasping the arrow which no one was able to stop.
In the distance, a sonorous voice boomed. In an instant, the wolves turned around and with a howl, scattered in all directions.
“Princess.” The soldiers and the old man greeted her reverently while kneeling.
“Rise. We still have a journey to complete.” She proclaimed in a soft, steady voice as if nothing had happened.
The men rose to their feet, their leader mounted his horse once more and with a wave of his hand, led the entourage onwards.
The old man got to his feet as well, entering another carriage situated at the back of the princess’. This time however, he wasn’t as calm as before.
Who could’ve known that the delicate looking Princess was actually at the peak of Ninth-grade.
He didn’t and neither did the assassin, which made this perfect assassination attempt that much more laughable.
At the front, Ning Chen was gently carried into the Princess’ carriage. While that arrow was nothing for Miaoyu, it was definitely fatal for Ning Chen.
Qing Ning’s body technique which was meant to save his life ended up nearly costing him it.
He barely managed to make it in time, blocking the arrow at the last second. Unfortunately, it was a pointless gesture on his part.
However, he wasn’t conscious to know about his foolishness. All he knew was that if Xia Miaoyu died, their entire entourage would be sent to the gallows.
She swiftly sealed up the acupuncture points around his wounds, stopping the gushing blood. Thankfully, the arrow hadn’t struck his heart but had instead veered slightly to his left shoulder. If not for this, that arrow would’ve been his one way ticket to heaven.
Despite firing multiple shots, the marksman had never once revealed himself. Even with two Ninth-grade peaks present, the elusive marksman managed to evade their attention.
Her eyes opened wide in shock as a look of disbelief crossed her face. Her hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, promptly infusing vast amounts of True Qi into his body.
“A fake eunuch!”
She exclaimed in a half-laughing voice. This was a momentous discovery! The eunuch who singlehandedly foiled the plot of Zhenji, and in the process, roused the entire Imperial City was actually not a eunuch at all! And here she thought she was good at hiding, who knew that there was someone even better at it than her.
To think that the almighty Grand Xia actually allowed a fake eunuch to infiltrate its palace and for so long too. Not only that, he was actually stationed right beside the Empress.
She could already imagine the chaos it would cause if this was to be revealed. Unfortunately, this would never come to pass.
As night fell, the entourage made camp within the Desolate Plains. Ning Chen’s eyes slowly blinked open, squinting as he adjusted to the blinding candle flame next to a blurry figure. Soon, he was able to make out the bewitching face of Princess Miaoyu staring right at him.
“You’re awake?” She asked softly with a smile on her face.
“Princess Miaoyu.” He paused for a second before replying. While he hadn’t seen her before, he could roughly guess who it was before him. Within this entourage, the only person who could have this bearing and appearance was her.
The wound on his left chest still stung but it was at a bearable level. This was almost similar to when Qing Ning had taken an arrow for Zhang Sun, today he took an arrow for Miaoyu. Thinking back on it, they were both out of their minds.
As his mind wandered off, a strange grin crossed her lips as she said, “So would you care to explain how you infiltrated the palace?”
Hearing this, his racing heart immediately brought him back to his senses. Suppressing his nervousness, he asked, pretending not to understand the question, “What is Princess referring to? This servant doesn’t understand.”
“Didn’t Qing Ning tell you that we both studied under the same teacher?” She answered with a faint smile.
He was taken aback once more; he actually didn’t know about this. Plus, he had never heard Qing Ning mention Xia Miaoyu.
If what she said was true, his identity as a fake eunuch must’ve already been exposed, his leaking Yang Qi would’ve been a dead giveaway after all.
(In novels, Yang usually refers to masculinity, heat, light, etc. Yang combined with Yin represent the duality of the universe where Yin represents femininity, cold, darkness etc.
Essentially, at least for fantasy novels, it’s safe to see them as elements of sorts similar to fire, earth, water, wood, metal. This isn’t accurate but most of its usage portray it as such.)
Seeing his changing expressions, the smile on her face slowly faded away, leaving a coldness as she said: “Aren’t you an audacious one, to actually dare to infiltrate the palace with your tainted body.”
If she hadn’t just verified that he was merely a first-grade practitioner, she would’ve suspected that he was the assassin who tried to kill the Emperor.
As he heard his biggest secret get exposed, his eyes narrowed.
“Princess, this one had no choice in that matter, I hope Princess will understand.”
He knew that she wouldn’t expose his secret. After all, there was no benefit in doing so and might even end up offending Zhang Sun.
His identity must never be exposed unless one wished to topple Zhang Sun. However, Zhang Sun’s faction possessed an esteemed position and the matching power to go with it. She had two martial marquis under her, each with their own army and war achievements. Such an easily erasable threat would not harm her a bit.
While he didn’t know what would be the outcome of offending Zhang Sun, he knew it definitely wasn’t good.
Plus, during those days he spent in the palace, he had come to understand the various political machinations. He knew that Prince Hua would probably choose to side with the Eldest Prince. With that in mind, there was even less of a reason for her to expose him.
“You aren’t afraid.” She said after a long pause.
“But your eyes don’t seem to say so.” She blandly replied.
“If Princess feels that this servant should be, this servant will be.” He meekly replied.
“Aren’t you a smart one.”
The meaning of his words were simple: his life was completely in her hands. If she wanted him to die, he would be afraid. If she wanted him alive, then there’s no point in him being afraid.
As she stood underneath the candle, she pondered in silence for a moment. Right before leaving, Zhang Sun and Qing Ning had both paid a visit to her, subtly mentioning Ning Chen from time to time. Their intention was abundantly clear to her; look after the kid.
Qing Ning was one thing but Zhang Sun was another matter entirely. Her making the trip to bring this up was definitely worthy of Miaoyu’s notice. The fact that a junior eunuch deserved such attention seemed almost absurd.
This was why she had ignored him completely throughout the trip. She wanted to see how he would react or perhaps it would be more accurate to say she wanted to see what was so special about this kid.
She had mentally prepared herself but what she saw still ended up shocking her. The kid had never once approached her and instead spent time with the palace’s sword master who was infamous for being hard to get along with.
However, after today’s events, she roughly knew why the two ladies paid so much attention to him.
While he wasn’t some saint, he was a loyal, sentimental and kind-hearted person.
Unfortunately for her, she was way off the mark. If Ning Chen knew what she was thinking right now, he would’ve probably laughed in her face. He only wanted to ensure his own survival while planning for his escape. Once he escaped, her survival had nothing to do with him.
If this was during normal times, he wouldn’t have even cared if she got stabbed a million times. She wasn’t a Zhang Sun or Qing Ning so why should he care? In his eyes, she was worse than a Zhang Sun who stole his penny.
As the two oddballs pondered in silence under the illumination of that sole lamp, their delicate, slightly shy faces both had the same cold expressionless look on them…
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