The moon hung brightly over the night sky at Prince Yue’s manor. Within the guestroom sat Ning Chen who was just about to start meditating but was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“The door is not locked, please enter.”
“Aiyah…” With a soft sigh, in came Ah Man who looked even more comely under the cold moonlight.
“What’s the matter?”
“I can’t sleep.”
Ah Man unabashedly replied just as forthright always, clearly not seeing the inappropriateness of a boy and girl being alone in a room like this at night.
But then again, both of them weren’t exactly ordinary people to begin with; one didn’t care and the other REALLY didn’t care. Thus, whether or not it was inappropriate, she entered anyway.
“You could always practise your cultivation if you can’t sleep.”
Her natural talents weren’t that bad, and she even had such a formidable father beside her. Given that she began cultivating since young, the fact that she hadn’t even reached fourth-grade Houtian truly left him at a loss for words.
“I don’t want to.” She answered without a second thought.
“…” Ning Chen was slightly exasperated by that answer, but if she didn’t want to then she didn’t want to; it’s not like this world was desperately in need of experts; one less wouldn’t hurt anyone.
“How about, we have a chat then?”
“Sure, what are we going to talk about?” She asked, as she sat down with an expression that contained all the seriousness in the world.
“How did you manage to convince your royal father to let you follow us?” That was the question that had been on Ning Chen’s mind all this time. Given the Man King’s dislike of him, it didn’t make sense that he would agree to his daughter following them.
“I didn’t tell him, of course.”
“You didn’t?!” A bead of cold sweat ran down his face as he asked with a disbelieving tone.
“You guys left in a rush and I only knew of it at the last minute, so I didn’t tell him.” She answered with a nod.
“…” His back began to feel a little chilly as he took in the ramifications of her words. That was an expert who could fight toe to toe with Prince Yan, and he was also a Xiantian! Would he rip him to pieces for kidnapping his daughter!?
“No one in the palace tried to stop you?”
Ning Chen asked in a slightly peeved tone. She was their princess for crying out loud! What if she got kidnapped!?
“Why would they stop me?” She asked in a slightly perplexed tone. It wasn’t like that was the first time she had ever left the palace.
“I guess that’s true.” He nodded with a resigned look on his face. In Ah Man’s world, whatever she wanted to do, she did; she was the princess after all. Other than the Man King, she was the biggest figure in the dynasty. Even if she blew up the palace, let alone leave the palace, the Man King would probably only care about whether she was hurt or not.
To think that he had to jump through all those hoops just to leave the palace; he had almost been smacked to death by Zhang Sun. Comparing his own experience to hers, his heart was suddenly struck with a sour sense of envy.
You just couldn’t compare one person to another, otherwise you would just get exasperated to death.
“Then shouldn’t you write a letter to your royal father?” Ning Chen gently reminded her. This willful girl probably didn’t even realize that she could do this.
As expected, her eyebrows jumped at those words, and then after a vigorous nod, said, “Alright, I’ll go write a letter.”
Without wasting another second, she rose to her feet and left.
Seeing that, Ning Chen’s eyebrows jumped as well. Sometimes he felt like there was a generational gap between him and this lady; weren’t they just chatting? Was it really appropriate for her to just leave like that?
However, considering her nature, he quickly came to the conclusion that it would probably be a good idea if he got used to this.
With their chat over, Ning Chen prepared to extinguish the lights and sleep; not to meditate, nor to cultivate, but just to sleep.
His head wasn’t working too well right now, and he desperately needed some time to reflect on the recent events.
Yet, just as he was about to reach for the candle, someone knocked on his door once more.
“The door is unlocked, please enter.” Ning Chen called out in a slightly exasperated tone.
At that, Prince Yan pushed open the door, and upon discovering the familiar aura in the room, asked calmly, “Ah Man was here?”
“Mhm, she just left.”
Saying no more, Prince Yan got straight to the point and revealed the purpose of his visit, “This Prince might have to leave for a while.”
Ning Chen’s brows furrowed. “How long?”
Prince Yan gave it some thought before answering, “Seven days or so.”
Hearing that, Ning Chen immediately felt a sense of unease wash over him, but he couldn’t put a finger on what it was; hopefully it was just him overthinking things.
“When are you leaving?”
“Senior, don’t worry, we can take care of ourselves.” Ning Chen answered calmly.
Nodding his head, the prince threw down a last reminder before leaving the room. “Remember not to be rash, no matter what it is, just wait for this Prince to return!”
Ning Chen nodded.
Pausing in thought, a flash of light briefly washed over the prince’s face before he returned to his middle-aged form.
“Senior why must you do this?” Ning Chen asked, slightly astonished by this act.
“If this Prince doesn’t grow old, a certain person would grow very worried.” Prince Yan answered in a calm voice.
Ning Chen’s jaw fell open, but even after a long while, nothing came out of it. Even an expert like Prince Yan needed to care about the feelings of that person?
Yet after the prince left, he was visited by another person whom he didn’t expect at all, the owner of the manor, Prince Yue.
Regarding this youngest prince, he didn’t have much of an impression of him. In fact, this would be the first time they had ever spoken or interacted with each other.
“May I know, what is Prince Yue here for?” Ning Chen asked in a courteous tone.
Smiling, he said, “Hah, I had nothing to do tonight so I came for a chat.”
Ning Chen snorted mentally, what a load of nonsense.
The night was long and…like hell it was! More than anyone else he wanted to sleep, but one after the other these people kept bothering him. Were they about done by now!?
Putting aside the matter with Ah Man. If it was that girl, he would sit there patiently with her as long as she wanted, and cajole her like she was his ancestor. As for Prince Yan, he was his current boss so he had no choice either.
This Prince Yue however, what’s the big idea coming to a young eunuch’s room in the middle of the night?
“Ning Chen is honored by your Highness’s personal attention.”
Ning Chen smiled accommodatingly as he said that. As the saying goes — when talking to a human, use human words, when talking to a ghost, use ghost words— this was a skill he had mastered to the point were it became second nature. So this prince wanted some off-the-record talk, fine, then he would not sleep and accompany him in his ramblings.
“Ning Chen, how long has it been since you entered the palace?” Prince Yue asked with his usual affable expression.
Pausing to count, he said, “Roughly half a year or so.” He was probably still considered a part of the palace even though it was clear that there was no way he could return.
“Then, what do you think of the current Emperor?” Prince Yue casually broached the subject.
“An empathetic ruler who knows how to manage his subjects, a ruler with a heart as vast as the ocean, a ruler who is open to criticism, a ruler who is benevolent and loves his subjects, a brilliant strategist and commander…a heroic and wise ruler.” As if reading off a book, he fluently recited each and every word without stumbling.
Having finished his speech, Ning Chen turned to a slightly shocked Prince Yue and thought to himself, I got more where that came from…a sagacious ruler, an erudite scholar, a forbearing ruler, a suasory speaker, a judicious…
He was a teen who had finished the most terrifying examination in the world after all — the National High School Examinations! Reciting a few phrases like this was nothing at all.
In fact, Prince Yue was stunned by his performance. He had never thought that a person could elevate bootlicking to such an artform; not a single praise was repeated even after he said so much.
They all said that the eunuch beside Her Majesty was a talented and learned person, having experienced it firsthand today, he had to admit that this teen truly lived up to the rumors. No wonder he was able to defeat the Zhenji emissaries so thoroughly.
However, he didn’t believe all that nonsense, not even for a second. In this world, if there had to be someone who absolutely wanted Ning Chen dead, the Xia Emperor would definitely be one of the top contenders.
The current Emperor was a paranoid man. There was no way he would let Ning Chen roam around so freely after that incident at Zhenqi Palace. The teen either submitted to his absolute control or faced his wrath.
It went without saying which of the two he chose. The fact that Ning Chen was here right now was proof of the boy’s attitude, and in such cases, the Emperor’s blade would never show any mercy.
“Haha, let’s not beat around the bush, Little Brother Ning, how about you tell me your true thoughts.” Prince Yue laughed lightly before asking politely.
Ning Chen’s eyes widened in shock. “Prince what do you mean? Every word Ning Chen has said comes from the bottom of his heart, Ning Chen knows naught of what this bush is.”
(TL: I died laughing at that, I need to use this one day)
Hearing that, the prince’s eyebrows furrowed slightly as a sharp glint crossed his eyes. This kid sure was a tough nut to crack.
Just a few days ago, he even found out that this kid had caused a stir in the Imperial City, and finally had to be escorted to safety outside of the city by Her Majesty.
Such treatment had never appeared, not even once in the thousand year history of Grand Xia.
The reason why he valued this boy so much was one, because of Her Majesty, and the other, because of Prince Yan. If someone were to tell him that he would one day expend such an effort to recruit a young eunuch, he would’ve never believed it.
Yet, as the facts would have it, he was now lowering himself to cajole and chat with a kid like him.
Ning Chen wasn’t aware of the prince’s true motives, but his intentions of recruiting him were clearly shown.
There was no such thing as a perfect person and neither was there such a thing as a perfect plan. While he didn’t know what this prince was scheming, there was one thing he did know, he must not step on board this pirate ship.
(TL: For those of you that do not know what the pirate ship term is all about. It is basically becoming a crew member of a pirate ship for life until death, following all the captain’s orders with no say of your own! Something along those lines…you get the picture)
He had already caused Zhang Sun a heap of trouble and shouldn’t cause her even more.
Seeing that there was no point in discussing this any further, he stood up, and with a straight face, said, “Ning Chen, this Prince truly admires your talents and sincerely hopes that you will work for him.”
Ning Chen’s eyes narrowed. Looks like this prince couldn’t hold it in anymore, that was a lot quicker than he thought.
Unfortunately, that didn’t mean that the facade was over.
After a dramatic pause, he put on a panicked look and said, “Many thanks for the Prince’s favor, but a servant does not serve two masters. Ning Chen is highly indebted to Her Majesty, how could he change masters now.”
Prince Yue’s eyebrows furrowed once more. Was his words not clear enough? All he wanted from the teen was his support, and that’s all; what use does he have for a eunuch!
His manor was already full of servants, the last thing he needed was another.
Without waiting for the prince to reply, Ning Chen respectfully invoked his guest rights, “Prince, it’s already getting late, your Highness should get some rest soon after such a tiring day.”
Prince Yue’s anger rose in that instant but was quickly suppressed. Looking at the teen, he said, “Ning Chen, this Prince knows that you understand what he means, this Prince hopes that you will consider his offer seriously. Wealth, power, you name it, it’s all yours as long as you agree.”
Having said that, Prince Yue turned around to leave immediately. He was on the verge of boiling over and needed to calm himself down for a second.
Ning Chen was a key figure to him and even had a terrifying weapon in his hands. The moment he agreed to his offer, all the key pieces of his ambitious goals would be in place.
Since the Xia Emperor couldn’t end this boy’s existence, he might as well might make use of him.
Everyone had a weakness, whether it was fame, fortune, women or power. As long as the price was right, he didn’t believe that there would be anyone silly enough to reject him.
Seeing the prince leave, he slammed the door shut and went to sleep.
Was Ning Chen stupid? Not at all. The ambition and high-handedness revealed in that last sentence was enough to send shivers down his spine.
Whether or not he was right about the prince’s intentions, this was definitely a pirate ship he must not step on.
Other than wealth, fame, and power, there was also another thing in world called your life.
Right now, it was the Xia Emperor who wanted him dead, and it was only by Zhang Sun’s determined efforts that he was still standing here today. If he recklessly followed this Prince Yue, there was no doubt in his mind that the first person to come after him would be Zhang Sun.
He wasn’t afraid of dying, but that didn’t mean he wanted to die either.
Plus, while he didn’t like the Xia Emperor, that was only because he tried to kill him. Other than that, he had nothing against this Emperor.
With the current external crisis facing Grand Xia, the last thing it needed was internal conflict.