A bloody and intense battle had just ended. The last surviving soldiers’ attitudes toward Ning Que had underwent a slight change. During the trip leaving Wei city, the soldiers may respected Ning Que’s ability as a guide. But if they encountered a big event or are in need of a major decision, the guards would treat Ning Que as a useless rock on the sidewalk. However, now the guards will instinctively ask Ning Que for permission when they were doing something.
After obtaining the princess’ permission, the guard leader followed Ning Que’s suggestion and did not immediately leave the entrance to North Mountain. Instead, he decided to let all the wounded soldiers to stay and rest to heal, while hoping the aiding troops from west of North Mountain will arrive during sunrise.
The weakend elder, Lu Qing Chen, calmly looked at the youngster resting beside the campfire. A smile climbed onto his face. His right thumbed slowly rubbed against his index finger, and shook his head at last.
There were two fire camps around the carriage. Although the wind in the dense forest was strong, the wetness of rotten leaves helped to control the spreading of the flame. The guard leader and wounded soldiers gathered around one of the fire camp, leaving the better spot for the princess, elder, and the small boy. They did not forget the difference in social status even in an urgent situation like this.
After finishing up bandaging and their meal, the barbarians from the Great Plain could not resist their thirst after battle and started drinking. The people around the fire camp passed the wineskin around; when it got to Sang Sang, the young maid shook her head. A barbarian named Du Mu walked toward Ning Que with a respecting expression, and passed the wineskin to Ning Que with his two hands.
Someone was observing this scene, and her pretty eyebrows wrinkled. She knew the loyal barbarians serving her were once dangerous bandits who roamed the Great Plain. They hardly ever show respect to anyone besides her. However this time the expression in their eyes not only contained respect, but also fear – even if the barbarians were thankful that the youngster turned the battle around and saved their lives, why do they fear him?
Ning Que took the wineskin and drank a sip, and his eyebrows wrinkled because his throat was burned by the rather strong alcohol. He looked at the elder sitting next to the campfire and thought of something. He pushed his exhausted body up with two hands and walked towards the elder. But before Ning Que even greeted the elder with a formal gesture, a cold voice interfered him.
Ning Que turned his head towards the pretty maid sitting next to the firecamp. He looked at her beautiful face brightened by the blaze, and signed in his heart. He bowed respectfully and sit properly at a place not too far and not too close to her.
Although Ning Que regarded her as an idiot, their social status differed greatly. If she was the stars in the sky, then Ning Que will be the worms in the field. Therefore he must be careful of his manners, he must be respectful to her.
Because she was no maid, she was Li Yu, the fourth princess of Tang Empire.
Li Yu quietly looked at the youngster’s face. His face was young and normal, except the dimples that blossomed when he smiled and the freckles on his face, there was nothing special about him.
Just a normal young soldier like him performed outstandingly during the last fight. When Li Yu saw Ning Que’s attack, he reminded of her the cold yet dangerous tigers leaping over the bushes on the Great Plain. She did not know why, but whenever she saw Ning Que next to her, her mood will become calm and relaxed.
Perhaps the youngster was guarding her like the tiger on the Great Plain.
But the problem was not that she liked the youngster. From Wei City until now, no matter when she disguised as a maid or revealed her true identity as the princess, she never liked the actions of this borderline soldier
What made her displeased was that she felt Ning Que’s respect towards her was just on the outside. She couldn’t feel anything from his proper manners and gestures; she even felt that Ning Que might have scoffed at her in some dark corners – A woman’s instinct was a terrifying weapon, no matter farm wives in the field or queens in the palace.
As the most noble princess of Tang empire, as long as she thought a low rank soldier was laughing at her, she should feel angry. However, this princess’s feeling now was, when sitting with the opponent, alongside the firewoods, actually a relax feeling of security, a feeling of being protected.
She liked this feeling, yet she didn’t like the fact that the occurrence of this feeling was because of Ning Que. Therefore, she actually felt humiliated and mad. So she narrowed her eyes as she looked at one side of his face, and intentionally spoke with a colder voice.
“During the battle, you seemed to want to go to the wagon to save me palace?”(me palace = respected call to I)
Me palace is what kind of palace? Da Ming Palace? Li Xia Palace? In any case at that time, the real me palace was not in the wagon, so now me palace say you wanted to save me palace before, of course she was actually being sarcastic and sneered that you only cared about accomplishing honor.
“Actually…..I knew that highness is highness when I was at Wei City.”
Ning Que looked at her and explained seriously, highness is highness, therefore the me palace at the wagon obviously wouldn’t be princess. Such disguise might be effective for diversion, but in the smart people’s eyes it’s simply a small trick.
Li Yu slightly frowned. She did not ask Ning Que more about when did he find out about his identity. Probably due to the previous battle and the sense of security she felt after, she had a good judgement on the youngster’s ability.
Suddenly she asked coldly, “You said you learned the killing skill in military, but you were only around fifteen now. Back then when Wei City was drafting you were only a little kid, why would the frontier soldiers take you?”
Ning Que thought that you were only a sixteen year old girl too when you were married to the chief on the Great Plain. When he was about to bull shit some random answers, Sang Sang came unnoticedly, sitting by his side.
Looked at the quiet small girl sitting next to him, his hearted slightly softened, staring at the fire in front of him, thinking back to his memory, “Princess should know that I picked up Sang Sang at the street when I was really young. At that time we were all very little. We accidentally went into the big Mian Mountain. When we were about to die from hunger and thirst, we encountered an old hunter.”
He turned up his head, looked at the Princess’s pretty face, said, “The old hunter was not a Xiu Xingist. He did not really save us for a good purpose, but anyway, he taught me to hunt. I learned archery from him. Later on….the old hunter died. So I lived with Sang Sang in Mian Mountain through hunting.“
A really simple narration, but the Princess could imagine a really vivid picture. A ten year old little boy carried a six year old little girl, hardly walking in the dangerous Mian Mountain. He had a little wooden arch in his hand, and the little girl carried a set of arrows in her back.
Sometimes they might not be able to catch any animals, and sometimes they might be chased by leopard on the mountain. Occasionally, the two children would celebrate for simply shooting a rabbit, and occasionally saw the lit stockaded village but had to leave silently.
In Li Yu’s eyes, Ning Que’s face no longer looked that mean. She frowned and asked, “It was so dangerous in a mountain. Why didn’t you seek help from the government? Tang gave a lot of aids of the orphans.”
Ning Que looked down and picked up a firewood, said with a deep voice, “Living, was actually easier in a place where there were little people.”
A really simple word, but actually hide much blood and tear from harsh living, Li Yu blankly looked at the master and maid at the side of firewoods, suddenly asked, “That old hunter…how did he die?”
Ning Que looked up, replied calmly, “ I killed him, killed him with a knife.”
He did not explain why he had to kill that old hunter, and he would not explain to the noble princess who never experienced the most dirty and dark part in the bottom class of the world. He probably would never explain to anyone in his life. He simply dotingly rubbed Sang Sang’s little brain, and pulled her into his arms.