The villager’s belongings were still loaded on the horses when Ning Chen rolled up to them. He released them all except for a white foal which he kept tied to his wheelchair’s back; as it would be unable to survive on its own due to its young age.
Due to the shock it received, it quietly trembled in fear by his side not daring to neigh. Wherever he went, the horse would quietly trot along. Its rations were carried by itself while Ning Chen’s own were carried on his wheelchair; to each his own, they were merely travel companions and nothing more.
Rummaging through the belongs of the bandits, he managed to loot a number of things including taels, textiles, poisons and drugs. Most notably, they had a letter on them, a sealed letter.
As his eyes laid on the seal, they could not help but widen. By the time he read through the contents, his eyebrows had completely knitted together to form a monobrow.
Entrusting such important news to an ordinary person…was the sender overconfident or foolish? Ning Chen believed it was the latter seeing as the letter ended up in his hands.
Even so, the trip northwards was one that mustn’t change, not even for a letter like this. As he continued wheeling along, the foal’s presence ended up significantly speeding up his travels.
Judging from the scarcity of its rations, the bandits weren’t planning to stay out for long. He had some rations of his own but whether or not the horse would eat them was a different matter.
After spending the majority of the day with it, the white foal had become noticeably more relaxed around him. From time to time, it would trot up to Ning Chen and lick his face which earned it a swift tug on its rope, pulling it away; this fellow was simply too unhygienic.
Thanks to his new companion, the trip northwards was a lot less lonely though his companion was not a human but a horse instead. However, this particular horse was smarter than most humans.
Knowing that it was likely that it had to spend the rest of its days with this human, it upped its affectionate behavior towards him. Ironically, this only ended up troubling Ning Chen who in a fit of anger cut off the rope, clearly he planned to leave the horse to its own fate.
And yet, the clever white foal knew to follow him even without the rope. If he rolled forward a meter, the foal would trot forward a meter.
Who said that the most thick skinned creatures in the world were humans? To Ning Chen, this young horse was definitely more thick skinned than the majority of humans!
With no other choice, he allowed the white horse to follow him untethered. The young horse, sensing his displeasure, dared not to carelessly approach him from then on. And so, the wilderness gained a strange pair of travellers, one horse and one human, neither interacting with each other as they trudged on.
By now the snow had begun falling once more, covering the entire horizon in what looked like angelic feathers dropping to the ground. Unbeknownst to Ning Chen, a while after he left the bandit camp, three silhouettes appeared beside the corpses. The man, the woman and the eunuch stared in surprise at the pile of corpses, brows furrowed as they took in the implications.
Having carefully searched through each of the 13 corpses, the man shook his head and stated, “The letter’s gone.”
“Their wounds are similar, they’re likely caused by the same person.” The girl calmly stated.
“Chase him down quick,” said the old eunuch, his eyes fixed upon the track marks left by Ning Chen’s wheelchair.
Unfortunately for them, the chase didn’t last long before the heavy snow covered up the tracks leaving them without any clue as to his heading.
“Split up,” declared the old eunuch without a moment’s hesitation. With the three of them, they should be able to cover each direction.
The man and the woman nodded, each choosing a side while the old eunuch took to the north. However, with the raging snowstorm, chasing a person was easier said than done especially given that Ning Chen had no destination in mind.
The north was a vast region, extremely vast. Tired after a day of traveling, he chose to break for the night the moment he spotted a village.
In actuality, it was mostly the horse that was tired. It tugged adamantly on his sleeves, not allowing the teen to take another step further. It was said that all the creatures of this world had a will of their own, but being this smart was a problem in and of itself.
The old eunuch was extremely quick, yet he had gone off course. Who would’ve thought the teen would end up getting delayed because of such a reason.
The village was a typical rural village, simple and warm-hearted. He had taken up residence with a family of four; a mother and father, and a pair of unmarried siblings. The brother was an honest and straightforward person. The sister was not a pretty woman, but she had a delicate look to her and was a kind lady.
The man’s hospitality and the woman’s shyness created a refreshing contrast during his stay in their home. After entering, the man beckoned for his sister to prepare a meal while he himself went about cleaning the house.
Being a guest, Ning Chen was seated at the warmest spot in the house, right next to the fire, while the siblings went about their work. No matter what he said, the brother insisted that he left everything to them.
Their father had been bedridden for years now and couldn’t even talk. As a result, the entire household depended on the brother for survival. This ended up delaying his own search for a wife. In fact, whether or not the sister could get married was now a problem.
The kids from a poor household mature quickly. There was no phrase more apt than this to describe the siblings.
In light of that, Ning Chen didn’t say much about it and instead quietly rolled up to the old man. With his right hand placed on the back of the old man’s heart, he began to channel his True Qi into the old man, strand by strand, his hands emitting a silvery glow as he did so.
A moment later, he withdrew his right hand and returned back to his spot by the fireplace. He had done all he could for the old man. Being at the end of his life, there was only so much Ning Chen could do for the man. Getting well was probably impossible, but at the very least, this should alleviate some of the pain off the old man.
As for he whether or not the old man would recover enough to speak, that was entirely out of his hands.
Growing old and dying was the ironclad rule of the world. No one was exempt from this, not him, not the Emperor and not even the Xiantians. If someone actually managed to cheat death, then he would be a god. Unfortunately, he had only encountered a horse-faced man, an ox-headed man and a pair of black and white freaks. As for a god, he hadn’t seen one yet.
“Thanks…” Atop the bed, the old man whispered in a barely audible tone that only Ning Chen could hear. Ning Chen smiled and nodded his head in response. One good turn deserves another and all that.
A while later, the meal was prepared and served on the table. With a gentle push of his wheels, he rolled up to the table and began digging in. Having subsisted on dry rations for the past few days, he was starving by now with his lips cracked from the lack of moisture.
These were all simple dishes composed of dried vegetables they prepared in advance for winter. However, thanks to the girl’s expertise, these simple ingredients were transformed into an enticing plate of food.
By the end, Ning Chen’s eyes were slightly glazed over from all the food he stuffed himself with. The man’s hospitality made it difficult for him to reject the food, so he ended up eating till he finally couldn’t take another bite; having to reject the man’s terrifying hospitality in the end.
The young woman seemed to have a small appetite, or perhaps the presence of a stranger had dampened it. Throughout the meal, she sat there with a flushed face that made Ning Chen slightly uncomfortable just sitting there. He had never seen such a shy lady before.
Up until now, the women he had encountered were more…valiant. For example, Mu Chengxue, Qing Ning, the Ninth Princess, Xia Miaoyu and…forget it, it’s more important to focus on the meal now.
After the meal, Ning Chen was naturally barred from helping out once more. The young woman’s kindness was more than enough to shame the first few women he mentioned to death. In fact, Mu Chengxue and Qing Ning probably didn’t even know what a seedling looked like.
As for the white foal, its dinner was still the rations it carried on its back; Ning Chen had no intention of improving his companion’s rations, not that he could do so in this snowstorm anyway.
At night time, another problem arose.
There was only two beds in the house, one big and one small. Normally, the young woman would share the larger bed with her elderly parents as it made it easier for her to look after them.
In actuality, Ning Chen didn’t require a bed to rest. Most of the time he would meditate on his wheelchair. However, the man wouldn’t take no for an answer and so Ning Chen ended up having to sleep on the bed. Only after accepting the offer did the man smile and walk off. He pulled together two stools and fashioned a simple bed out of them.
As winds howled in the night, Ning Chen laid on the bed while quietly listening to the wind, not intending to sleep at all. It wasn’t that he wanted to stay awake, but rather that it was snowing once more. While he had grown accustomed to the excruciating pain in his legs, that didn’t mean that he was numb to them.
Suddenly, the sound of a dog barking shattered the silence of the night. A moment later, it was mysteriously silenced.
In the straw hut nearby, the white foal began neighing as if to remind a certain someone within the house.
Ning Chen promptly got up and rolled out of the house on his wheelchair.
Someone had come and that someone was a martial practitioner. In all likelihood, the assailant was here for that letter in his hands.
The old eunuch’s eyes widened as he saw the wheelchair-bound teen. He recognized this person, but according to his memory, this teen should still be in Zhenji so what was he doing here?
It wasn’t strange at all that the old eunuch recognized Ning Chen, after all, most of the palace knew of him. Back then, he was a young talent, a hero, the light and a legend. Today, he was merely a cripple that was being hunted.
As for Ning Chen, he didn’t recognize the old eunuch standing before him; there were simply too many eunuchs in the palace. However, he recognized the clothes he wore. This damned eunuch belonged to the Western Palace. While the uniforms were mostly similar across the palaces, there were still some minute differences which Ning Chen knew of after spending so many days in there.
The old eunuch had overtaken Ning Chen a long time ago but having found no trace of the teen, he had no choice but to turn around. On his return trip, he heard rumors of a teenager visiting this village during the night; he knew right away he found his target.
As a sixth grade expert, he was naturally much stronger than Ning Chen, especially given that the teen was a cripple unlike him.
Ah, that’s not right either. Both of them were cripples just in different ways. Either way, there was a definite gap between their strengths.
The old eunuch’s mission was clear, kill anyone who had seen the letter. Therefore, he opened up with a palm strike without even saying a word.
Ning Chen immediately raised his blade to block the palm but was immediately thrown back several meters by the overwhelming force; knocking over the white foal’s straw hut in the process.
The white foal let out an irritated neigh. This was the place it used to hide from the snow, now that it was destroyed, where was it going to sleep?
It promptly pushed Ning Chen with its mouth and hooves. However, upon seeing the latter spit out a mouthful of blood onto the snow, it immediately stopped.
“Move to the side, don’t get in the way.”
Ning Chen dragged the horse to the side as he said so. What’s a horse like you doing interfering in a fight between cripples. Even if he needed help, it wouldn’t fall to a horse to help him.
Using the wheels as a support, he pulled himself back onto the wheelchair. Thankfully, that fall hadn’t crippled his hands otherwise he wouldn’t even be able to get onto the wheelchair.
Having taken a hit from that old eunuch’s palm, the machete had been severely warped. Giving it a couple of bends, he discovered that the machete was basically scrap metal now. No matter how he tried to straighten it out, it still had a crooked bend to it.
This old man was simply too strong. At this rate, there’s no way he could win.
Initially, the old eunuch was worried that Ning Chen might have some ace up his sleeves, but after that brief exchange he basically figured out the latter’s strength.
One word, weak.
His cultivation base was inferior, his skills were inferior and his experience was non-existent. The only thing going for him was his quick reflexes. Thankfully, Ning Chen wasn’t aware of the old eunuch’s thoughts or he would have been beside himself in anger.
All he knew was that the old eunuch was extremely strong, much stronger than he was.
Truth be told, the rating they gave each other was a clear indication of the disparity in strength. One was a newbie on the martial path while the other a veteran, no matter how you looked at it, there was no real comparison to be made.
As the snow storm raged on, the winds became stronger and the snow deeper. His vision grew blurred as the curtain of snow thickened. This battle wasn’t going to be an easy one…