The Tang empire was treated as the strongest empire based on a simple trait – its power.
Ning Que was not the typical civilian you expected to see. When he was on the battlefield, he didn’t seem be the type that fight until victory or with death. Even if he lived in Wei city for another two decades, he would not be able to craft an astonishing history where a beggar advanced to be a general.
But he had stayed in the army long enough to grasp precisely the rather precious and almost romantic traits of the Tangs. At the moment he discovered the arrows holes on the princess’s carriage, he inferred some troubling-inducing business. The current chief of the Great Plain was daring enough to assassinate the princess of Tang empire! Either the chief had truly gone mad, or there are actual powerful figures in the government of Tang backing him up.
“The fourth princess had already stepped into the boundary of Tang and entered Wei city, but she never revealed her true identity. What is the reason? because there wasn’t a vocabulary as ‘trust’ in her mind anymore. Perhaps she trusted the emperor, but for sure she has no faith in the officials. She didn’t believe in you, the general, she didn’t trust the military, she probably didn’t even trust the entire court.“
”Because she knew very well that if there was no figure in the capital allowing the barbarians to ambush her, they would not dared to attack. And the number of figures powerful enough to make such a deal? no more than four, and she will not want to mess with any of those four characters.”
“Even you, the general, wanted to stay away from this kind of upper class turmoil as far as possible, speak less of minions like me,” Ning Que stepped on the wet muddy ground with his heels, and whispered, “Troubles will definitely occur during the trip. I may hold down three to five people in a battle, but it is no use in a situation like this.”
“If I join the carriage, there will be one more dead body in the mountain side; if I don’t join, Wei City can have one more honest soldier.”
“Please general, just pretend that I am a tiny useless trace of Qi of nature, and you expect nothing out of me.”
Ma Shi Xiang looked at the humble youngster and signed, “Pretend you are a trace of Qi? is that humble or self-pride? If you really want me to take this order back, maybe you can compare yourself to a fart.”
Ning Que laughed and replied, “Well, I am about to become a student of the Academy, so I think it’s best for me to choose my words wisely.”
Ma Shi Xiang stopped teasing the child. He wrinkled his eyebrows and was silent for a brief moment, “The reason for me recommending you as the guide of the carriage….. is related to the Academy business,” he explained, “You have enough contribution, you passed the first exam, and I wrote you a recommendation letter to the school. But you really think this is enough to get you into the Academy?
“All these years you stayed on the borderline of the empire. Even if you heard some stories about the Academy, you have no idea what kind of place it represented.”
The general’s expression slowly became serious and heavy, “The Academy is the most prestigious, righteous, and sacred place in the hearts of civilians of Tang. Obtaining a military recommendation and report only means you are able to enter the test of the Academy. But if you really want to step over the glorious entry of the school, then you have to get at least three stamps from different apartments of the court……”
“Those apartments won’t take a recommendation letter from a low rank general like me to heart. Even the military guidance doesn’t have much power. If they want, the apartments can easily delay your exam date for several years. This situation is pretty common lately. Besides the private students of teachers in the Academy, any applicants who use the court route need to use money to buy their way in. There are countless middle class families that went bankrupted just to enter that one test!”
“I know that you saved some money in Wei City in the two years, but do you really that you can fulfill those people with barely a few hundred silver coins?
Ning Que scratched the back of his head, sighed emotionally and said, “No one told me about this thing before.”
“Because now there is a way to solve this thing, so there is no need to tell you about it.”
Ma Shi Xiang glanced at him and spoke unhappily, “As long as you achieve merits on
your way to Chang An, so the noble would favor you, or even simply remember your name. Later if any butler of the Princess’s mansion will help you say something, then which government office would dare to blackmail you?”
“So this means that I have to use my life to gamble for an eligibility for the entry test to the Academy. How come it sounds somewhat not worthwhile?”Ning Que continued scratching his head.
Ma Shi Xiang gave him a severe glance, scolded, “You fucking dumb ass!! To get into the Academy, countless people are willing to sell their mother and kill their father! Now you only have to take some risk, yet you are not willing to do it! ”
After a while the general calmed his breathe, and suggested, “Based on my analysis, Princess should also know that her track was impossible to be kept as a secret. If you could’ve guessed her identity, and the entire Wei city could have guessed it, then isn’t that means her enemies in this country would’ve guessed that too? Even so she still insisted to get on the journey to the Capital, which means that there are reinforcements waiting on the way. Your mission is simply guide her through the shortcut, so she can get touch with the reinforced people sooner, how is that gambling your life?”
Ning Que looked down, remained silent for a long time, ceaselessly calculating the costs and benefits within this mission.
Ma Shi Xiang stared at his facial expression, remembered this youngster’s strange temper, which had irritated him often. He understood that if he did not take out some tangible profit, it would be really hard to convince him to take the risk, so he involuntarily made a sigh, and whispered,“the Princess had an old man with him. His last name is Lu. I heard that he is part of the North Gate of the Great Sky Way.”
After he heard this, Ning Que looked up immediately, his usual calm but lazy eyes suddenly lit up.
Ma Shi Xiang sighed as he looked at him, “You came to Wei City when you were a small child. You earned everyone’s favor through your honeyed words and ability. The soldiers of the camp changed year after year, even the restaurant in the east of the city had changed two owners, yet you were still the most favored kid in the Wei City.”
He rubbed Ning Que’s head, just like looking at a spoiled kid, said, “In that year right before our last general died, he helped you get a military status. Right after the fall, we went to the Great Plain to collect firewood, yet we were besieged by the barbarians and almost died, it’s because of you so we could survive. At that time, the entire Wei City’s people decided to greatly merit you. We even came up with the idea that, even if your request was to have the most popular prostitute in the Capital for your first night, we would sell whatever we had to raise the money for you.”
The general, whose hair was already mostly grey, suddenly switched the thread of the conversation, bitterly said, “Yet no one expected that your request is to Xiu Xing. Unfortunately, we could not help on that at all. Within the entire Wei City, or even the entire Seven City Countryside, we could not help you find a teacher to Xiu Xing. All we could do is watching you reading the Extreme Sense over and over again, but nothing else.”
“But now it’s your chance!”
Ma Shi Xiang’s eyes suddenly became sharp, “No matter the Academy, or that elder, you have to catch both of the opportunities, and you must catch them.”
Ning Que stood reticently for a long time, looked down and slightly sighed, “Actually….I just somewhat feel reluctant to leave you guys.”
The stars outside of the window were soft and smooth. Ma Shi Xiang glanced at the youngster and said, “Wei City….after all, is too small, you should go to the Capital Chang An, to take a look at the real big world, maybe those places have a lot of danger, but have you ever really scared of anyone? ”
“At least…those places won’t only have one worn-out Extreme Sense.”