Nightfall - Chapter 193

Published at 17th of May 2018 12:25:07 AM

Chapter 193: The Entertainer in the Princess Mansion

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Geniuses were often associated with theories because they were only responsible for offering possible solutions to a problem, but refused to be responsible for verifying the answer. Therefore, Einstein who had relatively bad mathematics scores could put forward the theory of relativity and then continue in a daze. However, the validation of his theory had to wait until a few years when hard-pressed scientists went into the wilderness and stared at the eclipse for a long time.

Ning Que was praised as a genius because he could come up with ideas and wait for Senior Brothers to turn his ideas into reality without any effort on his part. Unfortunately, he needed the Talisman Arrow and, as the Talisman Master, he needed to personally participate in its creation. What was even more crucial was that as the youngest in the Academy, he didn't have the qualification nor the courage to impersonate the subject leader. Therefore, in order to turn a genius idea into a perfect technical design, he had to bear torment and continue drawing the Talisman on paper and do the most cumbersome and boring technical design work over the next few days.

As the Natal Item of a certain someone, Sangsang had no choice but to play the crucial role in the Talisman experiment. After the passing of several springs and autumns, she finally became the little handmaiden in a wealthy household and spent happy days in peace. She didn't expect she would still need to struggle for life and drift around. Though she was somewhat dumb-witted, she could no longer endure the inexplicable and mysterious feelings. She decided to rip off the white cloth on her body and carried a laundry tub to hide in the fake antique shop next door.

Despite the loss of his most sensitive experimental tool, Ning Que still had to continue his research and development work. He stood before the desk biting the head of his brush and thinking hard about how he should improve his talisman to dramatically increase the speed of the arrows. What he found most troublesome was not knowing how to perfectly draw the last stroke of the talisman while shooting the arrow.

His hair transformed from a bird nest into a chicken nest and finally into the grass nest that his Second Brother's large white goose formed in the water. His eyes shifted from exhaustion to excitement and back to exhaustion again, repeating until they turned into a dark mess. He felt like he was very close to finding a solution, but the answer seemed so elusive. When he reached out to explore, he only bumped into could immediately solve this problem, but felt that the answer seemed to still be floating in the clouds far away. He reached out his hand to touch and explore, only to bump into the water surface and the mirror surface. It was both painful and irritating.

Just then, someone knocked on the shabby door of the Old Brush Pen Shop.

Not seeing Sangsang anywhere, he shouted for her to answer the door several times. When no answer came, he belatedly recalled that she had already hidden next door. He threw away the ink and brush in his hands and unhappily went to the shop front to open the door.

A middle-aged man dressed in a short-sleeved turquoise robe stood outside the door with a respectful expression. Ning Que found the man somewhat familiar and accepted the invitation the man handed over. He looked at the inscription on the invitation and finally remembered the man was the steward of the Princess Mansion.

"What happened?" He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Must I go?"

The steward was startled by his reaction and said with a bitter smile, "Mr. Ning, I'm not aware about the specifics, but it should be a private gathering based on Her Highness' arrangements. You'd better participate."

Ning Que was just asking. He didn't intend on showing off his fearlessness in front of royal powers.

Ever since he stopped attending banquets in Chang'an City, he hadn't socialized for some time. With him being so busy with the Talisman Arrow these days, he had even less of an incentive to answer to anyone's invitation. But this time, the other person was the most favored Princess of the Tang Empire. Besides, he hadn't seen Lee Yu for some time. It wasn't a bad idea to go and see what she wanted to say and he could improve his mood as well. Perhaps it might even help his current dilemma. So he answered, "I'll be there on time tomorrow."



The warmth of the late summer gradually faded. From a distance, a leaf fan was still turning in the corridor, slowly ushering in breeze into the court and bringing freshness. Sangsang took Xiao Man to catch worms under several old trees. Ning Que and Lee Yu sat on the board of the court, sipping tea and idly gossiping. They made for a very relaxed and pleasant scene.

Only Ning Que's facial expression didn't match the scene. His eyebrows were knotted tightly and the tiny dimple on his left cheek became exceptionally clear as he gnashed his teeth and tightened his jaw muscles. Annoyed, he asked, "Your Highness, can I not go there?"

"My father's written correspondence should have arrived at the Academy by this time." Gently turning her wrist to bring the tea cup near her lips, Lee Yu sipped the tea as she said with a praise, "The tea sent by Shanyin county is really good."

He looked at her beautiful face and sighed. "Your Highness, can we just omit these vulgar salutations and figures of speech and get to the point? We're both youngsters. There's no need to test each other like those elderly people."

Upon listening to the words of 'figure of speech', she slowly tilted her thin brows and looked at him with a vague smile. But after all, she didn't use figure of speech. "If my father made the order himself, Mr. Jun Mo won't object to it. In my opinion, you have to go to the Wilderness."

"I've already entered the Second Floor. Why should I go and practice there?" Ning Que asked in confusion.

Lee Yu was puzzled by his attitude and frowned. "Why don't you want to go? The Academy students will be the pillars of the imperial court in the future. Should you take them to practice in the Wilderness, they wouldn't dare disrespect you even if they don't remember your talents in the future."

Ning Que shook his head. "The Wilderness is a very dangerous place."

Lee Yu looked at his eyes and said quietly, "If one stays too long in a bustling place like Chang'an, will this ambitious man become a decadent person? I don't believe such a small scene can frighten you. I'm aware of your title of the wood-chopper in Shubi Lake. Are you afraid of those grassland barbarians?"

"It's wood-collector." Ning Que corrected the title.

He went on to explain, "Though there haven't been any official battles between the Seven Cities Stronghold and the Grassland Golden Palace for many years, the battlefield is no stranger to me and I'm not afraid to return. But it's a matter of life and death on the battlefield. Those so-called invincible Academy students are terrible at battles. Who knows how many of them will die there? I have to be responsible for the lives of that group of children. The pressure is too great."

Lee Yu smiled. "Don't you forget they're your classmates. You say they are children, but do you really think you're much older? I don't know why you're now acting like an elder."

Ning Que secretly thought that he was indeed about eight years older than them after all. Though he was far from acting as an elder, he always observed things cautiously. "The older one is, the easier it is to survive in the Wilderness battlefield."

"But the truth is, you don't need to bear that kind of pressure."

Lee Yu looked at him and calmly said, "The Academy is a great place for the Tang Empire to train its talents. So you don't need to protect them like an old hen. It's a matter of life and death on the battlefield. Only those students who can return have the qualifications to be carefully cultivated by the imperial court. So just take them there. You don't need to care about their lives."

Ning Que was kind of surprised and was quiet for a long time."Not care about their lives on the battlefield? Then why should I take them there? Can't the Military Ministry just send someone else?"

Lee Yu didn't speak but looked at his fresh and pleasant face dotted lightly with a few freckles. She suddenly had a faint sense of regret.

She came back from the grassland last year. She was the first bigwig to discover Ning Que's abilities in the Tang Empire and also tried to recruit him. Unfortunately, it seemed her recruiting strength was indeed not strong enough at that time compared to Ning Que's talent. In the short period of one year, this lad soldier in the City of Wei has become a successor of the Divine Talisman Master, a Second Floor student, a celebrity in Chang'an City...

She used her slender fingers to slowly turn the teacup and gradually returned to the conversation. She smiled at Ning Que. "My father asked that you take the Academy students to the Wilderness. He doesn't value those students but took a fancy to you. He hopes you can earn some prestige for the Tang Empire and would like to see your abilities at the same time."

Ning Que was startled. "Isn't His Majesty thinking too highly of me...?"

"Because you have an ambition and some ideas, unlike those Senior Brothers and Sisters in the Back Mountain of the Academy. And my father values your ambition and ideas. In my Tang Empire, it's very important for youngsters to have an ambition."

"I really don't know what ambition I have."

"Or should I say... ideals?"

"His Highness should be aware of my ideals. It's all some simple things."

"But when you realize your childhood ideals, don't you have a greater ideal?"

"For example?"

Lee Yu looked at his pondering expression and said, "Do you want to be always practicing at the Back Mountain of the Academy?"

Ning Que replied without thinking, "Yes."

This problem might have confused him in the past, but it had not been a problem ever since Chen Pipi took him to the Book House in the cliff cave and he saw the scholar who kept reading and writing.

Lee Yu continued to ask, "But after gaining strength, don't you want to rely on your strength to do something you want and achieve some of your goals?"

What came to his mind were a dilapidated mansion, blood-stained stone lions, and his friend sitting in front of a wet wall. He felt his body slightly stiffening and he stayed silent for a long time so he could forget these ideas that couldn't be declared. He looked up at her and shrugged, saying indifferently, "I used to seek fame and fortune. But now I have my fortune and have become annoyed by my fame. So now I really don't know what to do in the future."

Lee Yu watched him quietly and suddenly thought that this guy was now a student of Headmaster of Academy. Therefore, the world's fame and fortune didn't appeal to him much. She didn't know why she actually felt a sense of frustration.

"I remember when you told Xiao Man a fairy tale last winter in the wooden court we're sitting in now. The little princess in that fairy tale was proud but timid and incompetent. But the frog prince was somewhat ambitious."

She spoke up after a long silence.

When she first spoke, she felt something wrong and wondered why she would suddenly talk about that story. But since she had started it, she clenched her fists to calm down and continued the story. Perhaps it was the windy late summer heat or the laziness of the palace maids in waving fans at the distant corridor, but she felt her cheeks becoming somewhat warm.

"If you want to do anything in the world, you should first dare to think about it. If you don't, you can never do it. And the so-called ambition, desire, or ideal still depends on your courage," she said in a slow voice.

Lee Yu's emotions had gradually eased.

It was very quiet in the courtyard. What could be faintly heard were the sounds of large leaf fans rotating in a faraway corridor, the surprised cheers of Xiao Man under the old tree, and the sound of rocks flowing into the pool between fake rocks.

Ning Que saw the silence, gentleness, and even indulgence in her eyes and understood the meaning of her speech. He couldn't help thinking of the girl sitting beside the bonfire at the Northern Mountain Road who listened to his stories. But in a flash, he woke up and remembered she was the dignified Princess of the Tang Empire, leaving those speculations on the past hovering in his mind. After a brief silence, he didn't answer the question but asked, "Is Mr. Lyu doing well recently?"

Lee Yu didn't hear Ning Que's tentativeness and felt a sense of regret and sadness. But it was also a big relief for her. So she held an invaluable small bamboo mud pot with a dragon head in front and filled the teacup. She smiled. "Mr. Lyu refused to live in Chang'an City and insisted on practicing in the Tile Top hill. A few days ago, he sent a letter saying he was in good health. Oh, he was very happy to know you've entered the Second Floor of the Academy."

Ning Que recalled Lyu Qingchen's selfless teachings on the journey. Back then, he was just an unknown lad who couldn't even cultivate. Now he was the major training subject of the imperial court in the Tang Empire. He couldn't help feeling grateful and yearn for that time. It made his mood a lot warmer.

"Your Highness, I'm going to the Wilderness… Please take care of Sangsang for me."

"You can count on me."

Under the protection of the Fourth Princess of Tang Dynasty, there should be no one in Chang'an City who would dare bully this little handmaiden. However, it was the first time Sangsang would leave him since she was born. Though he got such a positive answer, he was still a little worried. So he stared into Lee Yu's eyes and seriously said, "Don't allow others to bully her."

Though questioned by Ning Que, Princess Lee Yu wasn't displeased. Instead, she was calm for she knew he was willing to let her take care of Sangsang despite showing some attitude because of his worry over his handmaiden.

"I can assure you anyone who dares to bully Sangsang will die a painful death."

"Your Highness, that's too cruel. Just kill the person and his entire family."


"Your Highness?"

"Nothing. I have a letter here. Take it with you. I know you're not afraid of those Wilderness barbarians, but you're in a different place after all. If something happens, you can take this letter and look for Crown Prince Chongming."

Ning Que put the letter away in his sleeves, prepared to say words of gratitude. He suddenly raised his brows and listened to the breathing from outside the wall, wondering who dared to ignore the rules of the Princess Mansion and eavesdrop on their conversation.

Lee Yu looked at his startled expression and turned around. She furrowed her brows. "How did you come here? Have you finished today's homework? Since when did the Imperial College allow students to leave ahead of schedule?"

A lad dressed in bright yellow clothing walked out from behind a flower wall. He had bright eyes and graceful eyebrows but looked pale as if he hadn't seen sunshine for many days. His thin body and complexion made him look weak.

The lad smiled. "Sister, don't be so fierce."

Upon listening to the salutation, Ning Que knew the lad's identity. He was the eldest son of the Emperor of the Tang Dynasty, the most promising successor to the throne, Prince Li Huiyuan. He stood up and performed a bow with his hands folded in front of him.

The young Prince raised his brows, a trace of unhappiness appearing on his pale face. He waved his hand. "Take your seat, please."

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From what the Prince saw, this man couldn't be an ordinary person to be seated opposite his sister. It was the first time this man had seen him, he ought to be kneeling or making a deep bow on the ground at least. A simple bow like that was too rude.

While the Prince was fuming at Ning Que's lack of courtesy, Lee Yu's expression turned cold and she said unhappily, "Where's your etiquette? You should be returning a salute to Mr. Ning."

When he heard the name, Prince Li Huiyuan suddenly recalled the incident inside the imperial palace this year. He peered at Ning Que curiously and finally matched the figure in the legends with the person before him.

Even if he knew this man was someone his father favored, he wouldn't show him any respect. But he feared his sister most in the world and quickly stood up to salute him when he saw Lee Yu's serious expression.

Ning Que smiled gently and waved his hand to show his courteousness, yet he didn't move aside to avoid the Prince's salutation.

Li Huiyuan noticed this from the corner of his eye and seemed rather displeased. However, as a child that grew up in the royal family, he quickly suppressed his anger and stood before Ning Que, holding his hands and speaking to him warmly.

The Prince revealed a pathological nobleness on his pale innocent face and deliberately showed intimacy but couldn't conceal the indifference in his eyes. Being used to ignoring life and death and seeing deceit as well as dishonesty, Ning Que couldn't tolerate such a dishonest and even inferior performance. But he didn't show his unhappiness but showed his best acting and mental state. He was modest and passionate like a desert fire in the winter.

An actor that made a living by playing different roles. With the gentle breeze and flowing lake beside the corridor, Ning Que and the young Prince both performed on the same stage. This endless act they put on was an excellent performance of mutual humiliation.

Lee Yu looked at the pair talking to each other and sensed the strangeness of it. She frowned in distress and stared at Ning Que, indicating for him to stop his act.

The Prince suddenly appeared in the Princess Mansion and happened to meet Ning Que. Of course, Ning Que didn't believe it to be a coincidence for he knew what Lee Yu meant. But as for that thing, he wasn't qualified and unwilling to participate in it for now. Even if he wanted to, it would be a long time later. So when he looked at Lee Yu's gaze, he smiled and no longer baited the Prince. He bowed at the two and excused himself.

After leaving the Princess Mansion, he walked under a willow by the road and spotted a young Taoist holding a yellow paper umbrella under his arm. He couldn't help feeling startled. He often visited the south gate of Haotian Temple on the other side of the imperial city recently and recognized the Taoist to be He Mingchi, a disciple of Master of Nation, Li Qingshan. He Mingchi was an extremely busy person in charge of important tasks of Imperial Center Administration. Ning Que didn't expect to see him in the Princess Mansion today, seeming as if he was waiting for someone.

Ning Que walked over and asked curiously, "Brother Mingchi, who are you waiting for?"

The young Taoist looked at Ning Que and smiled helplessly as he pointed in the direction of the court. "I was ordered by His Majesty to supervise the Prince's studies but he ran out of the Imperial College and I had to follow him."

Ning Que thought that playboy Prince with a pale face really wasn't a good subject to get along with. It was a difficult job to supervise his studies. He looked at Fang Mingchi with sympathy and tried to comfort him. "You can turn a blind eye to him."

Fang Mingchi smiled bitterly and shook his head. "I was adopted by my Master and traveled in and out of the imperial palace with him since I was a child. I have become close with the Prince. Since His Majesty has given me this responsibility, I must take it seriously."



Ning Que then went under the old tree to find Sangsang, spoke with Xiaoman, and left the Princess Mansion.

When he walked into the bustling street and alley, he watched the children playing around a well in the alley. He recalled the young Prince and rumors of the fight for the throne. He couldn't help shaking his head and sighing. "How unlucky the Princess is to have such a brother. I don't know how much more trouble she'll encounter in the future because of him."

Sangsang asked curiously, "What's the matter with the Prince? Do you think he's also an idiot?"

"If he's really an idiot, no one will embarrass him. However, he learned some tricks from the Princess... An idiot who tries to be smart finds trouble easily."

Sangsang looked around and whispered, "Young master, that's a prince you're talking about."

Ning Que laughed. "Prince? Prince Long Qing? If that little Prince dares to provoke me in the future, I'll show him how hard it is to perform."

"Young master, you're proud and arrogant quite often."

"Two years ago, we could only participate in the distribution of taverns and gambling rights in the City of Wei. Now it seems we can participate in the assignment of the imperial throne. Why can't I be proud? Besides, there's no outsider here."

Sangsang glanced at him without speaking.

"Just believe it. Since I entered the Second Floor of the Academy, I've become the core disciple among them all. On the matter of throne succession, the attitude of the Academy now seems to be very important. The Senior Brothers and Sisters in the Back Mountain certainly aren't interested in it. Probably I'm the only one who is..."

Ning Que said, "That's why the Princess would play this trick today. But in terms of the Prince's performance today, I suspect she'll regret it. She should've told the little Prince in advance at least."

Sangsang asked curiously, "Can the Academy actually play a role in such a great event like the imperial throne succession? Young master, you've become a core disciple of the Headmaster of the Academy, so has your status also become high? Is the Headmaster of the Academy really so powerful?"

He laughed self-mockingly. "You should remember I haven't seen my master until today, but I've heard many rumors about him. Based on these people's attitudes, I can basically understand how powerful he is."

"Young master, should we be regarded as the Princess' people?"

"Xia Hou... should be on the Empress' side. Then I have to stand on the other side of the Empress, so that's the Princess' side. My point is that if we need to choose one party, we should choose the Princess. In fact, I've figured this out a long ago. But everything is waiting for the right price to sell. If we want a proper price, we have to wait. And now our price is good, so we can start to sell."

Sangsang suddenly stopped walking and looked up at his face. She said seriously, "When you mentioned the fairy tale about the Prince Frog, I also heard and understood it. Is this a good price?"

After a moment of silence, he shook his head. "Not all toads want to eat swan."

"Is swan not delicious?" Sangsang asked in confusion.

Ning Que looked at her and smiled. "In the eyes of some toads, a grubby black loach is much more delicious than a swan."

Sangsang asked, "Young master, are you scolding me for looking ugly and black again?"

Ning Que laughed. "It seems my little girl is finally willing to use her brains to think."

Sangsang said earnestly, "So the more I think, the more I feel this is a very good thing. Based on what you told me when I was young, if one can marry Her Highness, he can avoid hard work for many years."

Ning Que continued to move forward and said, "The question is how many people she has actually said those words to."

This remark involved the most vicious speculation on women. Sangsang frowned tightly and said unhappily, "Young master, you're always biased against Her Highness. She's actually a good person."

"I don't care if she's good or not. What does it have to do with me?"

"Just now you were talking about waiting for a good price to sell. What price will be higher than Her Highness herself?"

"Hey, haven't you heard one only sells his acting but not himself?" 

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