It was way past midnight and the biting cold winds had grown even chillier. As he started to feel a creeping sense of pain from his legs, he slowly made his way down the pagoda with a slightly annoyed look on his face.
The pagoda was over 30 meters tall and took quite a bit of struggling on part before he finally reached ground level. The first thing that caught his attention was the mangled corpse of that deformed man and his weapon. As the bow and quiver laid by the deformed corpse, it gave off an eerily cold glow that seemed even colder than the frigid night.
A good bow…that was the first impression it gave to Ning Chen.
In actuality, he didn’t know what constituted a good bow and what constituted a bad bow. That rating was based solely on his instincts.
This bow had nearly opened a new hole in his chest previously, now it had almost done again. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it had a blood feud with him.
The bow itself wasn’t made of wood but was instead constructed out of an unknown metal, however, given all the strange things in this world, adding this onto that list wasn’t that big of a deal either.
Engraved on the inside of this blue bow was the word “Maimed”. Its metallic body was simply decorated and seemed to have had some years behind it. Selling this bow would probably fetch him a pretty sum.
From today onwards however, this was to be his bow, and so was the quiver.
The road back was a long one and he didn’t wish to expand any more energy tonight. As he slowly wheeled himself back to the Pavilion, the wheels of his wheelchair clattered noisily in the silent night. It was a jarring clack that cut through the silence of the night yet this was still a lot better than the lonely void.
As the clouds blanketed the moon, Ning Chen silently cursed in his heart. Looks like the damned snow was about to make its appearance once more…when will it ever give up…such a pain…
From time to time, he would hear the soft pitter patter of footsteps behind him. Judging by the sound of it, there were people following him, and it wasn’t just a couple either.
However, he couldn’t be bothered to deal with them. As long as no one tried to kill each other, that was already enough for him.
Of those following him, there were bound to be spies sent by Zhang Sun. If he were to injure them by accident, things would blow up in an instant.
In this world, there weren’t many people who he feared. Unfortunately, Zhang Sun was one such person.
As his coattails flapped in the frigid winds, he shivered subconsciously, his hands hardening slightly as he rolled his wheels forward.
“Don’t tell me I’m going to spit out blood once more.”
The gripping feeling in his chest worsened his already foul mood as he wheeled along. He had already taken his medicine for the night yet it didn’t seem to do much.
What a waste of 800 taels…
Ling Yan Pavilion had grown completely silent by now; even the courtesans needed rest after all. It was said that courtesans were heartless while entertainers had no loyalty but the truly heartless and disloyal were the self-proclaimed merrymakers.
The one thing he hated in this world were these so-called sauve scholars. They might seem dashing but behind this facade was the blood and tears of countless women.
While he wasn’t some kind of saint, if anyone dared to act as such in front of him, he would smack that person with the sole of his shoes.
“Young Master Ning.”
It was then that a beautiful silhouette slowly approached him with the moonlight shining on her back. It was the girl he had parted with not too long ago, Yue Ling.
“I thought you would be asleep by now.”
A hint of astonishment crossed his face as he asked.
She threw the distant pagoda a contemplative look before softly replying, “I heard some sounds so I decided to investigate.”
Ning Chen immediately understood what she meant. It was probably that thunderous boom from the giant black umbrella. Who would’ve known that she was able to hear that even at this distance. Looks like the events of this night would soon spread across the entire Imperial City.
The silent night was breathtaking tonight and yet the heavens would have none of that as they sent forth another round of snow.
“How about I escort you home.” He asked, voice full of concern for the frail girl.
Yue Ling accepted his offer seeing as her abode was less than a minute’s walk from here.
As the pair wandered off into the night, Ning Chen, in a break from their usual routine, rolled his wheelchair forward on his own. The night was simply too cold and the wheelchair was bound to be just as cold.
Snowflakes gently drifted to the ground like a bouquet of translucent flowers that glimmered under the moonlight. It was a beautiful sight to be sure but it was also a cold one. While Yue Ling wasn’t lacking in winter wear, her insulating garments seemed to have no effect on her incessant coughing. Looks like the both of them had another point in common, they both hated the snow.
Having been acquainted with her for several days now, he discovered that he knew next to nothing about this strange girl. “Lady Ling, may I know where your hometown is?” He couldn’t help but ask.
“In the north.” Yue Ling pointed northwards as she answered in a soft voice.
He gave a chuckle upon hearing that. Of course he knew she lived in the north. Their very first meeting was in northern regions of Grand Xia after all. However, since she didn’t want to reveal anymore, he wouldn’t pry any further into this matter.
“Young Master Ning, what are your ideals in this life?” As her eyes stared into the distant north, a brillance flashed across her eyes, its radiance threatening to blind those who stared directly at it.
Ning Chen fell silent at that question. This question was simply too difficult for him to answer. In the past, all he wanted to do was to leave the palace and now that he had done so, he was instead trying every means possible to return to the palace.
If there was something that came to mind right now, it would probably be to stand up once more.
It was a simple wish yet its fulfillment seemed ever so distant.
“What about you?” Ning Chen didn’t answer her but instead threw the question right back at her.
“World peace and prosperity for the masses!”
As she said that, her beautiful face held no signs of levity. Instead, it gave off a saintly aura that brooked no scorn.
Ning Chen fell even more silent at her answer. He couldn’t compare to her lofty ideals. Unlike her, he simply pushed it to off to his next life because he knew that he simply couldn’t accomplish it.
It was an ideal that couldn’t be sullied and yet it was also a difficult one to realize.
Soon, the pair came upon the inn she stayed in. Without saying a word, he silently saw her off as she walked up the stairs and into her room to rest. It was then that Ning Chen turned around and left.
From the bottom of his heart, he prayed. He prayed that her wish would come true.
After returning to the Pavilion, he sat atop his bed and stared at his new bow, Maimed. Activating his cultivation base, he gently gave the bowstring a tug.
It was a rather stiff bow that didn’t budge an inch as he pulled on it. With no other choice, he put in even more strength, activating even more of the True Qi within him. Suddenly, he was struck with a pounding sensation that seemed to suck his True Qi out of him, leaving behind two thirds of his essence.
“No wonder…” Ning Chen’s eyebrows furrowed as he muttered to himself. This bow definitely had some secrets to it. It’s Qi consumption was simply too much; a normal person wouldn’t even be able to draw it back once.
With his current cultivation base, he could probably fire off two arrows at most.
It was a decent weapon in case of emergencies however it couldn’t be used all the time or it would probably tire him to death.
Stowing the bow behind him, he gently shut his eyes and began meditating. There had simply been too many fights recently and not enough time to recuperate. The amount of times he had gotten injured was comparable to the meals he ate everyday. If he didn’t make use of every opportunity to recover, his old wounds might just flare up the next time he fought. He would have hell to pay then.
With that, the night ended peacefully yet dawn didn’t arrive as expected as the snowing continued, covering the entire Imperial City in a beautiful gown of white.
Outside of the Pavilion, Ning Chen had already risen up and was rolling along beside the river Yin. As he stared at the fluttering snow in the sky, he began to fall in love with the beautiful and pure scenery before him.
If it hadn’t been for his legs, the snow wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
The snow in the Imperial City wasn’t that heavy and didn’t impede the daily lives of the common folk. As the masses went about the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, they painted a simple and calm picture amidst a snowy backdrop. At the end of the day, this was human life.
After a night of pondering, Ning Chen finally figured out a way to contact Zhang Sun while simultaneously keeping the Xia Emperor and the Western Palace at bay.
Unfortunately, it seemed like he had to leave without bidding his farewells once more.
He rolled his wheelchair once more to the top of the pagoda and peered over the sprawling Imperial City. Staring into the distant palace, he nocked an arrow to the bow, drew it back and fired it off towards Weiyang Palace.
Wrapped in the True Qi of the Scroll of Life, the arrow sped through the air like a silvery comet, leaving behind a faint trail of silver as it soared towards the palace.
Within Weiyang Palace, Qing Ning’s face changed as she noticed the silvery arrow. With a few strides, she swiftly reached for the nearest longsword and leapt into the air, deflecting the frightening arrow with her sword.
Her impromptu weapon shattered instantly with a loud bang under the terrifying power of the arrow. Her eyes narrowed as she immediately reached for the arrow shaft encased in silvery light.
Suddenly, her hands shivered as she swiftly left for Zhang Sun’s bedroom with the arrow in hand.
Attached to the back of the metallic arrow was a crescent shaped jade pendant. Her face darkened as she saw the familiar pendant. It was the jade pendant Her Majesty gave to that kid in order to protect his life!
The amount of people who knew of this fact could be counted on one hand so there was no chance of someone using this to threaten her. In that case, this jade pendant must’ve been shot over by Ning Chen.
With the situation as dire as it was, she didn’t even have the time to ponder the situation as she rushed off to Zhang Sun, her heart clouded with worry. She was deathly afraid that the kid had gotten himself into danger and desperately needed their help.
Zhang Sun had awoken not too long ago herself. With the eldest prince not in the palace and with the Ninth Princess grounded thanks to Ning Chen, there was no one to visit her in the morning.
As for the other concubines, they would only visit her after breakfast.
Without knocking on the door, Qing Ning directly pushed open the bedroom doors and strode in causing the Empress who was in the midst of dressing up to furrow her eyebrows. However, she didn’t blame the girl, given her personality, Qing Ning wouldn’t act so impetuously without an urgent matter.
“What’s the matter?”
Zhang Sun asked in a calm voice as she continued dressing up.
With a few quick steps forward, Qing Ning handed over the arrow in her hands, her face full of worry as she did so.
Seeing the jade pendant attached to the arrow, her hands froze in the midst of her dressing up. A short while later, she quickly stood up with a grave look on her face, said: “Let’s go, follow me out of the palace.”
“Your Majesty, do you think he has gotten himself into some kind of danger?”
“No, he’s trying to tell me that he has something urgent he needs to report directly.” Zhang Sun replied while shaking her head.
At the same time, the Western Palace and Revelation Halls both reacted to the sudden arrow shot. That arrow was simply too conspicuous and had long been noticed by the experts residing in the palace. Yet no matter how one cut it, they were too late to stop his plan.
The reports by their spies couldn’t be delivered instantaneously no matter how hard they tried so by the time, they were able to grasp the situation, Zhang Sun and Qing Ning had already left the palace.
After firing that arrow, Ning Chen maintained his position atop the pagoda, quietly waiting, waiting for the arrival of Zhang Sun.
As expected, it didn’t take long before a carriage could be seen heading towards him from the distance. There were no guards by its side nor was there any eunuchs or palace maids, all there was was a Qing Ning.
Seeing that, his face grew solemn as he took in the weight of Zhang Sun’s trust. With that previous assassination attempt still fresh in his mind, such a daring move weighed heavily on his heart as it began to fill with worry.
However, with his high ground and Qing Ning by her side, there was no one in this world who could harm her right now except for a Xiantian.
At this vantage point, he commanded a vaster field of vision and naturally could fire off an arrow at greater distances.
It wasn’t long before Zhang Sun’s carriage arrived at the base of the pagoda; given the numerous spies sent out by Weiyang Palace, it was a simple matter to locate him.
Stopping before the entranceway, Zhang Sun climbed the pagoda with Qing Ning by her side and came face to face with the wheelchair-bound Ning Chen.
“Your Majesty, Sister Qing Ning.”
Having been apart for so long, he was suddenly at a loss for words and simply greeted them with a wide grin on his face.
Seeing the wheelchair beneath him, Qing Ning’s heart twisted in pain as she forced back the tears in her eyes. Ignoring the Empress by her side, she rushed up to the teen and gave him a light smack on the back of his head.
At the side, Zhang Sun gave a cold harrumph as she glared at the kid. Mixed into her pained expression was a million dissatisfactions.
However, time was of the essence now. Not daring to waste any more time, Ning Chen rolled up to the Empress and handed over the letter in his hands, “Your Majesty, the implications of this letter were simply too grave. I had no choice but to employ this haphazard plan in order to seek an audience.”
Staring at the torn seal on the letter, she blandly asked, “You’ve seen its contents?”
This was a top secret candle wax seal that belonged only to the generals of the army. It wasn’t to be used except for the direst of matters, tearing it open without approval was also a capital offense.
Hearing that, Ning Chen scratched his head in embarrassment. If he hadn’t read the letter, how would he know that it was important.
Naturally, Zhang Sun wasn’t one to mind such matters. If she was, the amount of offenses this brat would have to be punished for were simply too numerous to count, even a hundred deaths wouldn’t be enough.
Opening up the letter, her eyes immediately narrowed as her face darkened.
“What a good Military Marquis of the North!”