Meng Fuyao thought and thought about all the possibilities and impossibilities, and felt dizzy-eyed.
Ya Lanzhu kept her eyes on her at all times, until they turned red. She pulled the curtain aside, and two men could be seen shuffling their feet back and forth, waiting.
"I don't care anymore. It's so hard to see her like this." It was Zhan Beiye who had spoken. He let out a deep sigh.
"Congrats, you can take advantage of her vulnerability," Zong Yue stated.
"Bullshit!" Zhan Beiye burst out. "Can you be more humane?"
Zong Yue responded with a low, cold laugh, before continuing with a higher voice, "I think you all need another rain-soaking. Can news from King De's side be trusted? Can you believe what you hear? Just a few words and here you are, making so much noise?"
As if his ears had been pricked, Zhan Beiye retorted, "Which eye of yours did you see her making a scene with?" He strode over and pulled the curtain out, carelessly carrying Meng Fuyao out and shouting, "Eh, why are you still in a daze? Wake up, it's not that bad. Zhangsun Wuji isn't that lousy. He couldn't have died. I've been cursing him for 25 years now, but he's always alive and well…"
"Pfft. You started cursing others from within your mother's womb?" Meng Fuyao pushed him aside. "Move. Don't disturb my toilet time."
Upon seeing her reaction, Zhan Beiye turned evidently joyful, albeit mixed with bitterness and a contradicting ache.
Zong Yue remained expressionless, but there was relief in his eyes. Meng Fuyao stopped before him, asking, "You have special news channels so you would know. What did they say on your side?"
Zong Yue sighed deeply, but Meng Fuyao stared him right in the eye, calming saying, "I want the truth."
"No one knows where Zhangsun Wuji is," Zong Yue confessed, "I didn't have much news to begin with but had just received information similar to what you've heard. There has been a collapse at Huya Ravine, and it is true that a dead body has been found. His imperial mark, his horse, and his flesh had all been mashed together due to the impact of the collapse. Technically speaking, no one has seen his corpse."
Meng Fuyao shut her eyes for some time before responding, "Alright, then."
She set her gaze toward Wanzhou, speaking softly, "I've given it some thought. He couldn't have died so easily. There's no way. I'm going to do what I should, and then, wait."
To wait for the dust to settle, to wait for destiny to uncover the truth, and to wait for everyone's future, or the lack thereof, to unveil.
'To wait for your return.'
On February 14th, on the 16th year under Wuji emperor's reign, the prince, who was supposed to manage the war between his nation and Gaoluo, had died in Huya Ravine, outside of Wuji and Wanzhou. It was a mountain near the inland city of the southern border, about 100 kilometers away from King De's camp and 85 kilometers from Yaocheng.
News spread and shocked the whole of Five Region Continent. Speculations, doubts rose, and people wanted to wait and observe. The whispers that were exchanged between national borders transformed into strong gusts of wind, gradually amassing high up in the sky.
On February 15th, King De, who was guarding the southern border camp, hurriedly negotiated for peace with the southern and northern Rongs, recruiting local soldiers to form an army of 300,000 and then raising a "friendship flag." He sent Yang Mi, his trusted aide, to lead the troop toward Wanzhou. Meanwhile, he announced to the world that the crown prince had been harmed and that he vowed to take down the perpetrator or he would never return.
Some praised his loyalty while others, who were scholars and more clear-headed, saw through his plan to plant his bum onto the Wuji's emperor seat, and would never return without it being secured.
Ignoring people's views, King De advanced vigorously, his vanguard quickly breaking through Wanzhou. Not stopping there, he used the commoners' anger as a reason to continue toward Jingcheng.
King De's ambition was abundantly clear, and it was as Meng Fuyao had guessed. He acted with disguised righteousness, and a revolt, something that was never allowed to happen in Wuji Nation, was about to succeed before his very eyes.
Almost, at least.
King De journeyed toward Jingcheng, indulging in his pending achievement, unaware that there was a female's shadow tailing behind and observing his every step. She was waiting to land a fatal strike any time possible.
On February 24th, Yang Mi was about to enter the border of Jingcheng.
Zhan Beiye had spread a secret order to lay an ambush in the mountains of the southern border. Dark Wind Horses disguised themselves as anguished citizens, running into the sight of King De and crying out, "Yang Mi is burning, killing, robbing in the city and seizing the palace. He's after the ruler seal and throne!"
Anxious, King De hurriedly sent a letter to question Yang Mi, only for it to be destroyed along the way by Zong Yue's men. Not receiving a reply got King De feeling even more urgent, and he ordered his troops to speed forward non-stop.
Unfortunately, the weather in February was extremely unbearable. Snow kept the paths moist, and many soldiers, born from the southern borders, couldn't adapt and eventually froze to death. Complaints filled the air and anger rose, leading King De to send another order to urge for quicker delivery of provisions. At this difficult point, if even the provision of necessities couldn't be guaranteed, the army might just start a mutiny.
The provisions did not arrive in time.
"Transportation officer Tang" reported to King De that there had been too many plunderers along the long course, and hence the grains weren't able to reach them in time. She requested for a few more days while using King De's name to urge the expeditions, milking respective counties unrestrained and causing major discontent among the citizens.
On February 27th, at Pingzhou, Gui County…
Meng Fuyao bared her teeth she squatted on top of a barrel, waving and shouting, "King De has waged war and wants these grains---"
Before she could finish a man spat, "Again!? Just last month he already collected thrice. How are we to live?"
Some smashed the empty grain sacks onto the ground, and others raised hammers while spitting angry curses at her. It was already Meng Fuyao's third time collecting grains, and there were almost none left. Unable to endure any longer, the citizens waved their weapons around despite not knowing what they were achieving.
As such, the "panic-stricken" transportation officer Tang yelled, "Don't hit me! Don't hit me! It's King De's order! The Rongsmen in the army have huge appetites and need more food. It's for the good of everyone…"
Before she could finish the crowd lashed out.
"Why do we have to give away the grains we have so arduously planted?"
"If they're eating our grains, let's do the same at their houses!"
The crowd hissed and charged outside the village and toward the stockaded village in batches.
In a few other locations, the assistant transportation officer in charge of collecting the grains released the same statement and took the same action. Even more people jumped forward with their farming tools, walking on the paths between villages and gathering at the main road leading to the Rong village.
Behind them, Meng Fuyao gradually steadied her footsteps upon completing her act.
She appeared calm and collected, but there was a fire in her eyes, burning with resolute hatred. It contained overwhelming willpower, which she bit on so fiercely and stubbornly, and which she was planning to take the tiger down with.
The soldiers in Kind De's army were already exhausted, and the citizens of respective counties had been provoked. With Meng Fuyao continuous stirring, the citizens infiltrated the Rong stronghold, seizing grains and ignoring the damage they were causing.
Upon gaining news that their houses had been attacked, that their families had been bullied and that their grains had been robbed, how could the already starving and exhausted soldiers possibly continue warring wholeheartedly?
Upon a series of war games and operations, the army scattered like water and collapsed like mountains in defeat.
Meng Fuyao kept silent, pursing her lips and looking up. Her gaze was set far away, toward the direction of Wanzhou.
She had been waiting for many days. Every day, every hour, every minute and every second, anxiety crippled her and shattered her heart into pieces that sank a little as time passed. The pieces of hope she had been clinging onto were seized, one by one and permanently by Time.
Every night before sleeping she prayed to see a certain face greeting her with a smile in the morning and saying, "You've not been listening again." To that, she had already prepared a comeback, "You scared me, jerk." She would say that and then throw him a hard punch, to which he might retaliate, and she would not mind.
Unfortunately, she couldn't put the countless scenarios she had run over in her in use. Every morning she waited. If there were no movements, she would keep her eyes shut and feel about her sides, only to be embraced by the cool air and never once the warmth she had been longing for.
It had been many days, and King De had started to revolt. The blister he had been trying to squeeze was almost out. He should have been back by now, but he wasn't.
Meng Fuyao leaned against a tree that stood at the end of the path. She waited by the village entrance, with the bright red sun setting behind her. The tree trunk was thin enough, but she was a tad thinner and frailer, if that was even possible, resembling a fallen leaf that floated aimlessly amid the golden-red clouds.
She looked toward that direction, her eyes flickering between the collapsed and shattered rocks. Her clothes were untidy, and amid the hazy evening, she could be seen clasping a yellow pouch tightly. It was something Zhan Beiye had ordered men to look for, and from how hard she was holding onto it, it was as if she was hoping to seek out the last glimmer of hope.
Meng Fuyao was so focused on the view before her that she hadn't noticed a silent black figure watching her from even farther away, the space between his brows covered in a layer of frosted dew.