In the dead of night, Ning Chen was summoned by Zhang Sun to the command tent where he learnt of the Lady Strategist’s letter to him.
Opening it, his eyes narrowed. Looks like Fan Lingyue couldn’t wait to get rid of him.
Admittedly, both of them had a very similar thought process: both felt that getting rid of the other was the most efficient plan.
“Tell your Lady Strategist that Ning Chen will be there on time.” Applying force to his palms, he destroyed the letter.
Hearing that, the bodyguard cupped his fist in salutation and turned to leave.
“Can’t you see that it’s obviously a trap, you mustn’t attend that meeting.” Zhang Sun angrily declared.
Ning Chen shook his head and answered, “Your Majesty, this is our only chance, in other words, it’s our only hope for victory. No matter what, I must give it a shot.”
“Your Majesty, my mind is set. If you truly wish to care for my safety, then let me ponder how I should handle this meeting tomorrow.” As he said that, his face darkened. Clearly, he had no intention of backing down.
“You!” Her body began trembling from her suppressed anger. This kid was practically angering her to death!
It was then that Qing Ning entered the tent. Having heard the news not too long ago herself, she rushed over in time to hear the two arguing as she stood outside of the tent. She immediately rushed in and separated the two from each other.
Outside of the tent once more, Qing Ning glared at the teen before berating him “How could you speak to Her Majesty like that.”
“There’s no time to explain, Sister Qing Ning, follow me.”
Having said that, Ning Chen wheeled off to his tent.
The first thing he did upon entering his own tent was to promptly fetch some ink and a brush after which he penned a list of names. “Sister Qing Ning, I need you to accomplish this alone, be careful and remember, return before daylight.”
Peering at the list, she was stunned for a second before lightly nodding her head and rushing off into the darkness.
Alone in his tent, he sat there eyes closed in thought. He was mulling over what kind of trump card could Fan Lingyue possibly have.
Fan Lingyue didn’t know any martial skills, that was common knowledge in this world. Plus, he had been with her before and didn’t detect the aura of a martial practitioner off her.
In this world, unless you were a Xiantian, it was impossible to wipe away your own aura.
In that case, what was the basis of her confidence?
Fan Lingyue had predicted his response extremely well; she knew that he wouldn’t pass up such a tempting offer to meet her. He was in fact, unable to reject this offer because this was the only way he could help Zhang Sun win this war.
No matter how much he mulled over it, he couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Was it possible? Was there someone else in this world who possessed a weapon that was effective against martial practitioners?
There was now less than 6 hours before daylight. In the meantime, Ning Chen hadn’t even moved a muscle, sitting there motionlessly all this while as he mulled and meditated. This meeting was just too important. No matter what, he didn’t want to miss any potential detail.
Around daylight, Qing Ning finally returned. However, Ning Chen merely left her a few words before sending her away so that he could tinker around in the tent alone.
After that, Zhang Sun came over multiple times to visit but was barred at the entrance by Qing Ning with a shake of her head. At this very moment, she was the only one who could support him.
Seeing that, Zhang Sun immediately flared up to the point where her face turned white and yet Qing Ning wouldn’t budge an inch. Her heart ached but she stood her ground.
Truth be told, he only told her one thing, “Even if I die, it is with a smile on my face. Her Majesty is a personage of esteemed upbringing, no matter how determined she might seem, she’s about to reach her limits as well. I will do my test to grasp this opportunity, the rest I’ll leave in your hands.”
Half a day later, Ning Chen wheeled out of his tent wrapped in layers and layers of clothing. Qing Ning stepped behind and pushed along towards the north.
Zhang Sun hastened to stop but just as she was about to approach the teen, she found herself blocked by a jade pendant.
“Your Majesty, remember back then you promised me two favors? The first was voided but now I wish to call upon the second one –please let me pass.”
After saying that, he respectfully bowed in what could be the last bow of his life and then skirted around her.
Zhang Sun stood there motionlessly with jade pendant in hand, her heart seizing up in pain as she took in his words.
Even now, those words echoed in her ears. That day, she promised that she would fulfill two of his wishes. The first was that he be allowed to leave the palace. She shot that down without any hesitation. Today, he made his second request but she found herself unable to speak the words of rejection.
Pushing through the chilly winds, Qing Ning continued escorting Ning Chen northward. On the north side, the young officer escorted someone as well but it was southward instead. These four people finally met face to face right before dusk.
“Sister Qing Ning, it’s time for you to go.” He said in a gentle voice.
“You may leave as well.” Fan Lingyue waved her hands as she calmly commanded the officer.
On both sides, a look of concern could be seen on the man and the woman’s faces. Yet, they had no choice but to turn around and leave, slowly disappearing into the night as they did.
“We last parted ways in the Imperial City, who would’ve thought that we would meet again under such circumstances.” She said with a light sigh.
Back then, she had another matter on her mind so she didn’t pay much attention to Ning Chen’s identity. Little did she know that she had just let the person she wanted to eliminate the most, get away like that.
Ning Chen felt the need to sigh as well as he took in their current situation. Perhaps this was what they meant by heaven’s will. Had either of them recognized each other back then, today wouldn’t have happened at all.
“Should I call you Yue Ling or Fan Lingyue?” As he stared at her, he felt a complicated swirl of emotions within him that was reflected in his eyes as well. Truly, heaven’s will had a way with toying with people. Who could have ever guessed that a person who gave out a sword as a parting gift would one day find herself as the sworn nemesis of said recipient.
“It’s just a name, don’t forget you hid your name as well. Since we both hid our names, neither of us cheated the other.”
Stepping behind the teen, she quietly began wheeling him along under the moonlight as naturally as before without any pretentiousness.
In this world, perhaps only she could be considered similar to him, and only she could be considered as a soulmate. It truly unfortunate however that both of them ended up as enemies.
“Are the ideals you talked about back then still valid?” He asked in a soft voice without turning around.
She nodded her head and said, “With regards to that, I never lied.”
“World peace and prosperity for the masses?” He asked in a scornful manner.
“Hah.” She laughed softly before saying, “That has never changed!”
“Does that “world” of yours include Grand Xia, does that “masses” of yours include the citizens of Grand Xia?” The scorn in his voice grew deeper with every word he enunciated.
“Of course.” She answered in a manner that brooked no doubt.
At that, Ning Chen coldly laughed. This time, his tone reverted to back its normal calmness. “And here I thought my face was thick enough, who would’ve thought that I would meet my match in shamelessness in you.”
Fan Lingyue didn’t seem fazed by it in the slightest, her elegant face maintained its usual calmness and perhaps even gained a trace of levity as she smiled thinly. At the end of the day, it was a pleasure talking to someone similar to her, even if they weren’t on the same page.”
There were simply too many fools she met in this world. From time to time, she would discover a Ning Chen that made her wary yet at the same time joyful.
Loneliness had always been the most terrifying thing in this world and she had been lonely for far too long.
“Fan Lingyue, what exactly are you plotting? The war the Mongols started, it not only brought the flames of war to Grand Xia but also brought disaster to the Mongols. How many of those 300 000 soldiers do you truly believe can return home alive.” Ning Chen asked in a solemn tone.
“I’ll do my best to bring them all home.” She answered in a soft voice.
“Hah, do you truly think that you can take on the entire Grand Xia by yourself!?”
“Reality seems to back me up on that.” Fan Lingyue replied in a calm voice.
Having said that, both of them fell into a moment of silence. Ever since they adopted their separate standpoints, they couldn’t seem to agree on a single issue even though they stood together just like before.
“Fan Lingyue, in that world peace of yours, exactly what kind of role does Grand Xia have in it?” As he said that, a profound sense of weariness flashed across his eyes.
With a soft laugh, she replied, “The lands of the Mongol are simply too small, I must lead them out of there and Grand Xia is the biggest obstacle in this journey. That’s all there is to it.”
“And how do you know that all the Mongolian citizens feel the same way as you? For all you know this is merely your own personal whim.”
Ning Chen once again couldn’t contain his scorn. Yet, there was no need for him to do so in front of this woman.
Fan Lingyue didn’t answer him but instead calmly returned the question to him, “You aren’t even a Mongolian citizen so how do you know they don’t dislike the smallness of their territory?”
“Hmph, you’re just twisting the argument now.” Ning Chen was furious but he had nothing to rebut her with. He wasn’t a Mongolian and thus didn’t know much about their lands. All he knew was that they lived in a resource-scarce land.
Fan Lingyue wasn’t wrong but her methods were too extreme.
“Fan Lingyue, based on your words alone, 170 000 soldiers of Grand Xia and over a million innocent civilians were murdered. Do you not feel a shred of guilt over that?”
“No, the path to peace is often paved with sacrifices. It’s the same for you, for me and for them as well.”
“You’re mad!” He once thought that he understood this woman but today, he found that he was wrong. This woman was nothing but a maniac and there’s no reasoning with her.
Fan Lingyue didn’t deny that accusation but merely stated, “It’s because there are too many normal people in this world that the world became the way it is now; abnormal. By what right does Grand Xia hoard the wealth of the Central Plains while the Mongols have to make do with the biting cold winter of the north. The world belongs to the everyone, it’s not Grand Xia’s world.”
Ning Chen had nothing to say to that. Such sovereign divides had existed since time immemorial, no matter which dynasty or era it was. It even existed in other worlds. As for world peace, that had always been an ideal and nothing more. No matter who it was, no matter what era it was, no one had ever fulfilled this ideal.
“Fan Lingyue, if you continue like this, you will end up destroying Grand Xia and even the Mongol Horde. There is no such thing as true world peace and equality–not in the past, not now, not ever.”
“You’ve never attempted it before so how do you know it won’t work.” Fan Lingyue coldly chortled before continuing, “You know what’s the biggest difference between me and you? It’s that you aren’t willing to try because you hate failure while I have never cared about such things. So what if I fail? At most I’ll pay with my life as atonement for those who died in this world.”
“However, no matter what, I’ve at least tried. Stepping onto this road of world peace, I, Fan Lingyue, have never once regretted it, and I will never regret it either.”
Amidst the chilly winds, Fan Lingyue stood there quietly, her beautiful eyes resolute and ruthless. Her life was ever so fleeting. What she didn’t hope to see on her deathbed was that the world remained the same as before.
Ning Chen tightened up his clothings, his body shivering slightly from the cold. As expected, he hated the skies in the north, even though it was already spring, it was still so freezing cold…