In the morning, Ning Que and Sang Sang woke up and started to pack up with the light. They occasionally had a quarrel, yet were silent most of the time.
Outside of the house, Ning Que made an attempt to pull something from the house’s wall for a while. He pulled out a long bag and took out the arrows in the back. He checked them for a long time and gave them out after he confirmed that there were no problems with the arrow. On the side, Sang Sang took over the arrows and put them into a big pocket made of cotton. She then took out three slightly rusty swords from the top of the fence. Ning Que took over and carefully wiped them. He put the swords facing the sun, looked at their sharp edges, and nodded his head. Eventually he used grass ropes to tie them on his back.
He took out a black umbrella from from the back of the door. Then used the last segment of grass rope to tightly fasten the umbrella on Sang Sang’s back. This umbrella was made from unknown materials. It felt like it was covered with a layer of black and dull oil. It does not reflect light, and appears to be somewhat heavy. Moreover, the umbrella was really big. Even though it is closed up and tied to Sang Sang’s thin and short body, it almost touched the ground.
After finishing preparation for the journey, Ning Que and Sang Sang walked in tandem, passed through the shabby fence. The two people looked back simultaneously, glancing at the small shabby house, Sang Sang looked up at his lower jaw, asked, “Master, should we lock the door?”
“No need to.” Ning Que pondered a bit, said, “Later on….maybe we will hardly come back.”
The iron covered wooden wheel rolled over the wet soil ground. The noble’s carriage slowly started the departure, moving towards the outside of the Wei City. Five wagons, connected together with soft ropes can grab the attention of people living in the frontier at any time. Actually, many people come to stand by the sidewalks today, yet their focus was not on this noble carriage, but the younger and the little maid sitting on the first wagon. From time to time people would send boiled eggs to them and a red face auntie saying something while using her dirty handkerchief to wipe out her tears.
“Ning Que you the little mean ass hole. My nephew was such a good man, why didn’t you let Sang Sang marry him? Now it’s all over, this poor little girl has to follow you to a place where people eat others without even spitting their bones. I am telling you, you better take care of my Sang Sang!”
On the carriage, Ning Que’s face turned extremely awkward, answered irritatedly, “Auntie, you started to propose for a marriage since Sang Sang was eight, this thing was just not going to work out that way.”
After several kindly scoldings from the auntie, raindrops began to fall off from the top of the sky. The rain seemed to be thinner than lines, falling on people’s body, bringing them a slight sense of coldness. However, none of the people left. The soldiers’ relatives in Wei City were busy at saying good byes to Ning Que, and calculating the last debt issues with him. It seems like the crowd would make the noises for a really long time.
In the most noble and luxurious wagon in the back, that arrogant and cold maid opened the curtain. She leaned out her head and took a glance. Her pretty eyebrow can’t help but frown.
When the carriage was about to moved out of this small city in the frontier, Ning Que stood up from the wagon, made a salute to the people.
The youngster carried three old swords on his back. Standing in the water with one hand making a fist and placing it under the other one, he made a grateful salute and showed some heroic manner.
“Brothers and uncles, sisters and aunties, I don’t want to say much thankful words.”
After finishing this sentence, he opened up his two arms in the rain. He clenched his fists and extended them up, revealing his pectoralis and biceps that were not so strong. He made a really stupid pose, and shouted loudly, “This trip to Chang An, if I don’t make a fortune out of myself, I will never come back!”
Ning Que’s words came out, like the story reciters’ wood dropping down the table, ( TL Note: the story reciters used to signal the starting of their story), or even like a bloody human head falling down the ground, causing the people on the sidewalk to applaud cheerfully altogether.
In the only good restaurant in Wei City, Ma Shi Xiang and his several military officials were drinking wine. The nobles did not want them to send off and they were also too lazy to send off Ning Que. Tet they clearly saw the image of this moment. One official thought about what Ning Que said on the wagon and couldn’t help but sighed, “Won’t be back if not making a fortune? Then this unfortunate kid will probably never come back.”
Ma Shi Xiang, who was sitting on a side of the table, pondered about the three concise sentences Ning Que told him last night and can’t help but lightly touch his beard. He felt comforted looking at the carriage that was gradually passing out of the gate and laughed.“May as well never come back you little troublemaker. Bring the mess to the world outside!”
The carriage traveled away from Wei city and the Great Plain. The troublesome dry season that bothered the barbarian tribes and the new chief did not affect the weather here. The spring breeze colored the leaves and grass a new lively color which painted the wagon wheels and horseshoes. Butterflies were swirling around in the air playfully.
The steeds were running between the grass field and the hills. Sometimes the chains linking them to the carriage were pulled intensively and sometimes they were simply left hanging. Once in a while the carpet-filled fancy carriage room jumped due to obstacles and rocks. The beautiful maid stared blankly into the view; her expression was little stiff, maybe she had a flashback to the dusty northern climate. However, in her eyes there was definitely passion and desire of the unknown future.
There was a little boy dressed in luxurious clothing in the carriage. He was hugging the maid’s leg and looking at her desperately, mumbling some words, perhaps wanting to go out and play.
The maid turned around and lectured him harshly, but her expression turned soft and took him into her arms and rubbed his head.
The wind blew one corner of the curtain open, the breeze slide past the face of the maid. She squinted her eyes toward the front of the entire group, targeting her negative expression at someone.
In the frontmost simple carriage sat the young soldier named Ning Que. From his repetitive nodding it was easy to see that he was almost asleep. However he was supposed to be the guide who directed the entire party to the right routes, therefore it was hard to call him qualified or responsible.
But the reason for the maid’s cold expression was not exactly Ning Que’s dereliction of his duty, but rather another action that she observed.
While Ning Que was napping on the carriage and while the carriage was moving quickly, he almost fell off couple of times. The only reason that he was still on the cart was that Sang Sang used her small and weak body to support Ning Que’s weight and kept him on board. Although it was hard to see the expression on her dark face, it was noticeable that she was very tired and struggling.
Right at this moment, the group ran passed a shallow dent in the grassland. Ning Que woke up from the shock and rubbed his eyes while looking at the sky. He noticed that he slept right until the dusk and raised his hand to signal the party to rest. The group stopped and started to set up their camps.
Setting up camps right after waking up seemed irresponsible and unprofessional, but no one objected to his command.
It’s been several days after they left Wei city. Every order the youngster gave on the trip was proven to be correct; whether it was the choice of route, location of camps, safety protection, intake of resource, or securing escape, there was no flaws in his plans. The speed of the party was rather fast regardless of all the preparation as well.
The dozen of barbarian bandits that the noble took in did not trust and looked down upon the soldiers of Wei city at first, but now they have nothing but respect for the young guide’s extraordinary abilities.
Along the river, people silently dug and set up fire to boil water. The maid left the fancy and well-guarded carriage and glanced at Ning Que who was comfortably rubbing his stomach and ready to eat dinner. Seeing the small maid who was struggling to transport the water into the pot and making a fire out of wood beside Ning Que, the noble maid’s eyebrows wrinkled really hard.
A strong and tall guard stood up and looked at the maid. She shook her head to signal no need to follow, and walked towards Ning Que’s camp.
She acknowledged that the youngster was rather capable, much better than the self-centered noble sons in Chang An at least. If he was a noble son in Chang An, then she would have treated his attitude with recognition. But he was just a teen from the lower class, and he oppressed the young girl who he should’ve supported and helped. This view touched and affected her mood. The made her feel rather unpleasant.
Walked toward the small maid Sang Sang, the noble maid smiled at her warmly and signaled her to put down the bulky wood and talked to her.
Sang Sang peek at Ning Que, waited for his approval then walked towards her. The maid took out and offered a handkerchief, but Sang Sang shook her head – after all the physical activities, there was no sweat on the small maid’s forehead.
Finally Ning Que got up from the grass and dusted off the dirts and saluted while smiling at the maid.
The maid did not turn around to look at him, she said indifferent, “I don’t like you, therefore there is no reason for you to salute me. It is hateful to see people like you that act cheerful and warm on the outside while are truly corrupt and degenerate in their hearts.”
The monotone words and tilted chin expressed her noble status. As a personal maid serving the princess of Tang empire, she can treat most of the court officials equally – but small characters like Ning Que? even more so.
Ning Que shook his head and laughed, turned around and walked towards the campfire near the river.
He only has one maid while the noble has countless servants. The only maid was pulled away by one of the countless servant to chat. Although the noble has other maids serving her, Ning Que has to prepare and cook himself.
Perhaps his face skin turned thick due to constant dust storms on the borderline, there was awkwardness in Ning Que’s laughter.
After sunset, Sang Sang returned with a bunch of snacks. Ning Que was disappointingly looking at the over cooked meat gruel while she walked in. He did not hesitate and took the snacks and binged on them while asking, “Why does she want to chat with you so much? I haven’t eat a single actual meal in days……. sometimes these noble’s sympathy is truly misplaced. Just watch her smile, looking like the wolf who wanted to eat the Red Riding Hood, thinking she is welcoming and soft, but she actually is as fake as the water-filled alcohol in Wei city.”
“She is not a bad person,” Sang Sang gathered the overcooked food and was about to clean up and leave, but Ning Que called her back.
“What did you guys talked about these few days?” Ning Que asked.
Sang Sang thought for a long time trying to memorize what happened and answered, “I think…. you know I don’t like to talk….. Most of the time she was talking about things happened on the Great Plain, but I forgot what exactly she said.”
After hearing this, Ning Que felt much better. While he was humming a light tone and chewing on the snacks he said, “Next time when she wants to chat with you, remember to charge her, or you can take some more of these snacks.”
Sang Sang used the river water and extinguished the campfire. After making sure the fire was gone, she carefully pulled a barrel filled with hot water towards the small camp. The people on the river bank saw this view and knew the small maid was preparing water to wash Ning Que’s feet, many of them showed disdaining expressions.
And of course, this disdaining expression’s target was Ning Que.
After washing his feet, Ning Que slid into the lamb fur blanket, and put a pair of cold feet into his arms. He let out a moan and yawned, “Let’s sleep.”
Sang Sang was much more tired than he was, and soon fell asleep.
But Ning Que opened his eyes again, his sight seemed to pierce through the old and shabby camp and landed on the starry sky, then his eyes fell upon a handkerchief.
Remembering the gold-laced handkerchief that the maid took out, he knew his prediction was right, but he did not know what use he can make out of the prediction.