The next day, within the halls of Revelation, a heated argument could be heard echoing throughout its resplendent halls. Outside, whether it was the palace maids, the eunuchs or the guards, none of them dared to approach the raging storm for fear of being caught in between.
In Grand Xia, the only one who dared to argue with Her Majesty the Empress like that, and that was Marquis Zhiming.
Walking up to the towering doors of Revelation, Qing Ning sent the frightened servants away.
As if their chains had been suddenly cut, the whole bunch of them immediately fled without ever looking back. Truly that place was a no man's land right now. Every second they spent there was the same as being simmered in hot water.
"Even if you don't want to get married, you're marrying her. While this Empress is alive, this decision isn't one you can make." Within the hall, a visibly angered Zhang Sun yelled. That brat was truly out to get her, she thought to herself. Exactly what was wrong with Xinyu, in what way was she not worthy of him?
"Why don't you marry her then, since she's so great. Either way, I'm not getting married." Ning Chen was just as harried right now. This was the first time he had to deal with someone forcing a marriage on him in such a manner.
"Impudence!" Zhang Sun stood up, nearly knocking over her chair in the process, and stormed off towards a near jar of paintings to grab a painting. She then turned towards the teen, painting raised high and ready to beat him.
Naturally, Ning Chen wasn't one to stand there and let himself get beaten. Without wasting another word on this, he immediately ran, throwing behind these words as he did so: "A gentleman uses his mouth not his fists."
"Qing Ning, bring him back here!"
Seeing the teen flee like that, Zhang Sun became even angrier, her voice turning even shriller as she shouted that.
"Sister Qing Ning, you mustn't be party to such violence!" Ning Chen hurriedly cut in.
Stuck between the two warring factions, Qing Ning was immediately struck with a pounding headache. Giving them both a look and then one more look to little Ming Yue who had long since fled to a distant corner, she quickly walked away as well.
No matter what, this was something she didn't want to be a part of. After all, it had nothing to do with her in the first place.
"Rebels, the whole lot of you, clearly this Empress's words aren't to be followed anymore I see!" Seeing Qing Ning act like that as well, her fury soared to new heights. Clearly their wings had all hardened and now they even dared to ignore her words, Zhang Sun railed in her head.
"Imperial Mother, please calm yourself, such matters should be handled amicably, Ning Chen knows what's good for him after all ." Qing Ning did her best to persuade the angered Empress, albeit from quite a distance away. This argument had gone on for over two hours already; there was just no way she planned on sticking her head into a fight like that.
"What a spectacle!" Exclaimed a clearly amused Ming Yue in a voice as soft as she could manage. Where else would she be able to find such entertainment? Clearly not in that boring Mongolian court of hers!
However, Qing Ning's ears weren't to be fooled so easily. She clearly heard the little girl's whispers and that made her even more exasperated. Exactly what kind of person would act like that now? She couldn't help but gripe to herself. Why were all the people hanging around Ning Chen so strange?!
"Know what's good for him? He has to be the least likely person in this world to know what's good for himself!" Yelled Zhang Sun as she tossed the painting at Ning Chen.
Seeing that, Ning Chen promptly stepped aside before saying his piece as well. "An important matter like marriage should be conducted between two willing parties. The Ninth Princess and I barely know each other, how can we get married just like that?!"
"Hogwash!" By now, her anger drove her to swear. "When have those of the junior generation ever had a say in such matters. Such a rule doesn't exist anywhere in this world!"
"I don't care, what others do is their own business but no matter what, my marriage is something I'll decide for myself!" Ning Chen vehemently stood his ground.
"Let's see whose daughter dares to even take a step into your manor without this Empress's approval!"
"…" Ning Chen was truly furious right now but he had no words to say to that as well. In this entire world, he had no kin to speak of. Only Zhang Sun could be counted as his elder. That meant that whatever marriage he wanted would have to go through her in the end.
Like Zhang Sun, he was a very traditional person as well. Important matters such as marriage had to have the blessings of an elder. Whether it was in China or this world, that was a rule that never changed for him.
"Imperial Mother, you mustn't be so unreasonable, you can't use your position to force others like that." Ning Chen emphasized that point though in a slightly weaker voice.
Immediately, Ming Yue's pretty little face wrinkled up. 'It's over, the bad man's about to cave in,' Ming Yue thought to herself.
"Hmph." Zhang Sun coldly harrumphed before continuing: "If this Empress wasn't reasonable, you wouldn't be acting with such impudence right now. Xinyu is someone this Empress brought up from young, whether it's her looks or her personality, she's more than worthy of your status. Exactly what are you dissatisfied with?"
Seeing that his foe was simply too stubborn for him to handle, Ning Chen had no choice but to try a different tactic. "Imperial Mother, I'm just seventeen this year. It's still too early for marriage. Besides, my background is that of a eunuch's, that truly isn't good for the princess's reputation."
Hearing that, Zhang Sun frowned. The first reason wasn't even worth the effort he took to say it. After all, there were plenty of men who married at sixteen; seventeen wasn't a young age for marriage at al. The last reason however, now that was an entirely different matter.
Even so, the matter regarding Xinyu mustn't drag on any longer. Before a new Emperor was crowned, Xinyu's marriage must be settled. There was no such thing as kinship in the Imperial Household. That was why she wanted to find a good place for Xinyu while she was still able to make such a decision.
In her eyes, there was no better candidate than Ning Chen; he was also the person she trusted the most. Over the past few days, she constantly sought to find a solution for that problem. No matter what, she was determined to find a reason or some kind of suitable identity for the boy so as to silence the wagging tongues in the court.
"That matter is a problematic one, this Empress needs some time to mull over it."
"Take your time, Imperial Mother, I'll make a move first."
Ning Chen hurriedly bade his farewells before throwing a look at little Ming Yue to get her to follow him out of the hall.
There was simply no way he was going to succeed today; his opponent was simply too strong and that called for another brainstorming session.
The two scurried out of the room and soon they disappeared from sight entirely.
On the road out of the palace, Ming Yue turned to Ning Chen and in a soft voice, said: "Bad man, are you really going to marry that Ninth Princess?"
"No way." Ning Chen immediately rejected that idea. Seeing as Xinyu didn't dare to oppose Zhang Sun, it was now up to him to hold the fort. After all, he was more than used to being the bad man already seeing as whatever reputation he had left was basically in the gutters by now.
"How do you plan on getting past that Empress of yours then?"
"No idea, you have anything for me?"
"Nope." She shook her head like a rattle drum and said: "I'm a kid, what kind of plan do you think I have?"
"…" Not knowing what else to say to that, he thumped himself on the head and said, amidst a pounding headache: "Well we can talk about that later, there's got to be a way somehow."
The two made their way back to the manor but just as they were about to take a seat, an urgent report came in. It was from the distant Buddhist Nation.
Tearing open the seal, Ning Chen immediately scoured its content after which his face darkened.
Someone managed to rescue the head abbot of the Western Doya Temple!
That happened two days ago so taking that into account, the Mortal Buddha actually managed to survive seven days of being burnt!
The letter also mentioned that the blood veins on the Bloodvein Sword had mostly disappeared by now. Without a doubt that was the result of the head abbot using his buddhist energies to repel the vengeful energies within the sword.
Demonic forces were a direct counter to those of Buddhism. That was a fact everyone knew about. Seeing as the Bloodvein Sword was basically nothing but a lump of steel now, the Mortal Buddha couldn't have been that much better off either. Even if he was still alive, he was probably a mere husk of what he was then.
At the very least, such a person was no longer a threat to Grand Xia in the short term. Besides, after so much time, the headmaster's injuries should have mostly recovered and wouldn't take much longer to fully heal up.
Rather than that, he was more interested in Fan Lingyue. After such a long period of silence, it was about time for her to make a move as well.
With that in mind, Ning Chen stood up, gave little Ming Yue a gentle rub on her head before saying: "Ming Yue, go play around in the manor for now, I'm going out."
Leaving the manor, Ning Chen proceeded eastward along the Imperial City's streets. Looking at the crowds pass by him, he couldn't help but sigh all of a sudden. Without his knowledge, he ended up spending an entire year in this world already.
All around him, the sounds of hawkers selling their wares filled the bustling street. Taking in the prosperous sight, his heart couldn't help but grow more conflicted with each step he took.
A year; that was neither too long nor too short. Other than the constant prosperity of this city, everything else had changed.
"Big Brother, I want a candied hawthorn."
Not too far away, a young girl of roughly four to five years of age, dressed in a green dress, was pulling at a little boy beside her, eyes filled with hunger as she did so.
The little boy was clearly troubled by his little sister's tugging , his hands quietly reaching into his pockets to finger the last copper coin within them. That coin was his lunch money for tomorrow, should he spend it now, he would have nothing then. However, upon looking at his little sister's hopeful eyes, he decided to do so anyway through gritted teeth.
After all, wasn't the whole reason why an older brother was born earlier just so he could look after his little sister?
The boy stepped up to the seller and bought the candy, no longer hesitating anymore.
"Big brother, have some as well."
The satisfied girl handed over the candy to her brother, eyes sparkling as she did so.
"It's all right, your big brother doesn't like candy." As he said that, he quickly turned around to swallow the saliva dripping down his mouth.
The little girl still wasn't at the age where she could tell the difference between lies and truths, so she didn't pay much attention to her brother's words. Eyes smiling, she happily chowed down on the sweet treat. In her mind, that stick of candy was the most delicious thing in the world right now.
Seeing that heartwarming scene played out before his eyes brought a faint smile to Ning Chen's lips. The greatest treasures in the world couldn't compare to that stick of candy right now, and the simple warmth it represented. Like a radiant jewel, it shone a pure, untainted light in the darkness of this world.
And yet, it was at that moment…
That shout was immediately followed by the thunderous rumble of horse hooves. All around Ning Chen, the streets were thrown into chaos and even he ended up being pushed to the side by the panicking crowds.
"The Red Guardsman of the Internal Affairs has business to attend to, onlookers please step aside!"
Moments later, a horse galloped past the crowds, drowning them in a sea of dust and fear. While that might have been a harrowing experience for them, there was nothing they could do about it either.
Suddenly, Ning Chen ears were filled with the cries of a little girl. Turning around, he found that same girl, now squeezed into a corner by the crowd, staring red-eyed at her crushed candied hawthorn. As she stood there sobbing, the look on the little boy beside her was noticeably downcast. Because he had no more money, he could only pull his little sister away.
Immediately, Ning Chen's eyes turned cold. As he watched the dust settle behind the distant figure, a murderous glint flashed past his eyes.
"Boss, can I have two sticks of candied hawthorns."
Walking up to the hawker, he handed over the money before promptly squatting down before the two kids and saying: "Those were big brother's men just now. It's all big brother's fault for not disciplining them well so big brother is here to apologize."
The girl stared intently at the candy in Ning Chen's hands. She really wanted to grab them but yet she didn't dare to do so. Thus, she could only throw her brother a troubled look.
The brother stood there in a daze for a moment before answering in a polite voice: "Big Brother, our mum told us that we can't accept a person's gifts like that, that isn't good." He then left with his sister who still had her eyes glued to the candy.
Seeing that little girl turn around from to time to stare at his candy while she left, Ning Chen's heart couldn't help but ache. Soon after, that sourness in his heart was replaced by an iciness that was clearly reflected in his eyes.
"The Red Guardsman of the Internal Affairs huh…such an inflated sense of superiority…"
The Minister of Internal Affairs was charged with the management of all the gaols in the empire. That post used to be handled by Marquis Qingyu, at least till he was removed not too long ago by the Empress. Because of that, the post was now held by someone else, and unfortunately for that guardsman, that person so happened to be him.
As Ning Chen strode towards the Department of Internal Affairs, his face was as cold as a sheet of ice. It had already been two days since the change of command was announced; perhaps it was time for him to pay a visit to these so-called subordinates of his.