Xiang Wanwan's last recollection was when a military tent flew over and smacked her on the head. By the time she opened her eyes again, she saw a stone roof. Xiang Wanwan was stunned. She turned around when she heard a man's voice.
“Ah-----!” Xiang Wanwan screeched. She was panic-stricken and in disbelief.
When the Northern Hu general saw the dazed Xiang Wanwan, he remembered that he was fighting against Yongning's poor rebel forces. The general swept his eyes across the stone pavilion. Why is a woman lying next to him? How come all his subordinates had women next to them?
The female soldiers had now regained their consciousness. When they found themselves in such a situation, the women started to scream their heads off.
Squatting behind the stone pavilion, Ning Xiaoyao’s mouth twitched. They are supposed to be female soldiers, ah! They don’t fit soldiers’ image! The Northern Hu general’s reaction was quick. While the female soldiers were still shrieking, he clutched Xiang Wanwan’s throat. He didn't know who put him with these Yongning women, but he must have been set up!
Xiang Wanwan was struggling to breathe. However, she still wildly swung her hands and attempted to scratch the Northern Hu man choking her.
“Who are you?” the Northern Hu general shouted at Xiang Wanwan.
Since neither of them spoke each other’s dialects, they naturally weren’t able to understand each other. Seeing that Xiang Wanwan was just screaming and trying to fight him, the Northern Hu general loosened his grip a bit before applying on more pressure. Since you don't want to talk, just die! By now, the female soldiers had regained their senses and rushed to rescue their lady. However, the general’s subordinates didn't have any tender feelings towards the fairer sex. They immediately seized those female soldiers as they struggled ferociously. The Northern Hu men began to swear.
Hiding within the bushes from behind the stone pavilion, the Dragon Guards looked at His Majesty. When should they step in?
Ning Xiaoyao could hear the horses coming toward the stone pavilion. The hoof beats were evidently urgent. The troops must have heard Xiang Wanwan's screams and were rushing toward them at an accelerated speed.
“Your Majesty?” Shadowgale called out softly.
“Hold on, wait a minute.” Ning Xiaoyao lifted her hand. All the Dragon Guards looked at Ning Xiaoyao's raised hand. Ning Xiaoyao was calculating the timing in her mind. The timing must be just right, not too early and not too late. The fight inside the stone pavilion had reached a climax. The female soldiers were even using their teeth in battle; however, they were still no match against the burly Northern Hu men.
“It's alright.” Ning Xiaoyao told the Dragon Guards. “With me here, those girls won't die.”
The Dragon Guards: ...They don't care about those rebel women. They just want to know what they're supposed to do, ah!
“You should love your compatriots.” Ning Xiaoyao reminded.
Shadowgale suddenly muttered, “Those women are traitors.” Shadowgale heard the phrase “compatriots’ love” the first time, but he understood the meaning right away.
Sounds of torn clothing echoed from the stone pavilion. “Is Xiang Nong's daughter dying?” a Dragon Guard whispered. The shrubs in front of him was thinly spread, so the gap was wide enough for him to see the current situation.
“Stay calm.” Ning Xiaoyao's hand was still half-raised. She was absolutely still.
“General, Yongning's rebel forces are coming.” a Northern Hu soldier standing outside the stone pavilion loudly warned his general.
“Wait a bit longer.” Ning Xiaoyao spoke.
The Northern Hu general looked outside the stone pavilion. “Save us!” hollered the female soldiers who were still able to speak.
One, two, three, four, five. Ning Xiaoyao counted in her mind. She put down her raised hand suddenly and whispered, “Go!” Shadowgale reacted quickly. He dashed to the stone pavilion the moment Ning Xiaoyao lowered her hand. However, Ning Xiaoyao was still faster than the Dragon Guards. She jumped out of the shrubs and shouted, “Ah! The Northern Hu are snatching our women by force!”
The Northern soldiers were shocked by the sudden shout from behind them. By the time they turned around, Shadowgale had already rushed up with the Dragon Guards. The four Dragon Guard Commanders surrounded the Northern general while the other Dragon Guards dealt with the general’s subordinates. As for Ning Xiaoyao, she was only a spectator.
The Northern general's martial art skill was very high. He empty-handedly blocked Shadowrain’s sword. Then he drew his sword out of its sheath. Although it was four against one, the winner wasn’t evident.
After struggling desperately, Xiang Wanwan collapsed on the ground, unable to move nor speak.
Ning Xiaoyao could see her Shadow Commanders struggling to capture the Northern Hu general. They were still unable to lock him down in three moves. So, Ning Xiaoyao took a stone from the ground and threw it at the general’s head.
The Northern Hu general could tell something was amiss from behind him. The wind sounded strange. However, before he could dodge, the stone had already hit his head. Shadowgale’s team of four also heard the sound of the wind. Ning Xiaoyao managed to single-handedly knock out the general that four of them had struggled with all their might. Blood spurted from the back of the general’s head and quickly dyed the ground red.
Shadowgale didn’t hesitate at all. He lifted his blade and chopped off the general’s head. At the time, the general still had a bit of consciousness left. From outside, Ning Xiaoyao looked coldly into the pavilion. Aside from the silk bag with precious stones tied with silk rope around his waist, there was also a string of human ears varying in sizes. The left ears were males while the right ears were females. Those ears were air-dried and hung around the waist like the trophy of a victor. From the moment she saw those ears, Ning Xiaoyao sentenced the Northern Hu general with the death penalty. Suddenly, another Northern Hu head flew down to Ning Xiaoyao’s feet. She looked down to take a glance before kicking it to the official road.
The duration of the fight was short. By the time Xiang Nong’s troops came, all the Northern Hu men from inside the stone pavilion had already been killed or beheaded by Shadowgale’s team.
“Miss, Miss!” a female soldier climbed over the corpse in front of her and threw herself at Xiang Wanwan. Xiang Wanwan was still befuddled from exhaustion. When a general of the rebel forces reached the stone pavilion and saw the dishevelled Xiang Wanwan, he was so frightened that he hurriedly turned around and ran to Xiang Nong.
"Is this your lady?" Shadowgale, with a sabre in his hand. He deliberately asked the female soldier that was kneeling in front of Xiang Wanwan. The female soldier wept and nodded.
“Hey,” Ning Xiaoyao entered the stone pavilion, squatted down, and patted Xiang Wanwan on the shoulder. "Your father is here."
Xiang Wanwan regained a bit of strength and saw Ning Xiaoyao crouching in front of her in poor lighting. Her facial features looked fuzzy and vague.
“Your father.” Ning Xiaoyao pointed her finger outside.
Xiang Wanwan pushed away the female soldier kneeling in front of her and shoved Ning Xiaoyao to the ground. Then, she broke into a run and fled from the stone pavilion. Ning Xiaoyao sat on the ground with a smile on her face. She ran out with her clothes in disarray. That was truly not her fault.
When Xiang Wanwan rushed out of the stone pavilion, the rebels standing on the official road were bewildered. Their eldest miss had dishevelled hair and her face was red and swollen from being beaten. There was a trace of purple on her neck from being choked. Most importantly, the eldest miss’ outer garment was torn and her undergarment exposed. The soldiers didn’t dare to imagine what took place.
Xiang Wanwan was almost at the official road before she suddenly turned around and ran back to the stone pavilion.
When Shadowgale and his team saw Miss Xiang turning back, they guarded Ning Xiaoyao in a calm and collected manner. Ning Xiaoyao was not afraid to fight with Miss Xiang. But she was curious as to why the girl ran back again. Xiang Wanwan rushed into the stone pavilion and found the body of the Northern Hu general. She picked up a blade from the ground, and thrust it into the general’s corpse ruthlessly.
Xiang Nong arrived in a hurry. Earlier, the rebel forces’ general that ran away was obviously not a good messenger. At the very least, he didn't clearly explain to Great Lord Xiang what had happened in the stone pavilion. So rather than appearing at the scene alone, Xiang Nong came with a group of people.
The generals carried many torches. The light from those torches drove the darkness in the stone pavilion away. This allowed Xiang Wanwan to clearly see that her belt was untied, her pants were loose, and her body was exposed. She finally realized her clothes were dishevelled.
Another piercing scream came out of Xiang Wanwan’s mouth again. The knife fell from her hand and Miss Xiang wrapped her arms tightly around her body and knelt on the ground.
They were all men. When they looked at Xiang Wanwan and the Northern Hu general’s corpse, Xiang Nong and his generals immediately made the connection. Xiang Nong's face was ashen in an instant, while his generals moved away from the line of sight.
Ning Xiaoyao then pointed to the corpse on the ground and mumbled, "He’s from the Northern Hu." Xiang Nong looked up at Ning Xiaoyao.
Previously when they had met, Ning Xiaoyao was standing by the crenel. Hence, Xiang Nong had the impression that Xiaoyao was short and weak. Although she was still the same person, the dragon robe had now been replaced by a grey skirt, and the jade crown headband was now randomly used to tie up her hair. Xiang Nong could not tell the girl in front of him was Ning Yu.
Ning Xiaoyao was very calm toward Xiang Nong and his generals. Last time, her face was not exposed and her gender was male. She firmly believed that these people would not recognize her. Xiaoyao took a quick glance at the people who came with Xiang Nong.
Xiang Tiange and that Danian weren’t here! Sticking out her small chest, Ning Xiaoyao was even more confident. Without asking who Ning Xiaoyao was, Xiang Nong untied his cloak and went into the stone pavilion. He went over to his daughter, squatted down, and wrapped her in a cloak. Xiang Nong got up again and looked at Ning Xiaoyao. "Who are you?" Ning Xiaoyao replied, "My name is Pei Daya. People from Jianghu* call me the Poison Widow." Boss Xiang had never heard of such a figure in the Jianghu, but his face remained unchanged. "So why are you here, Mrs. Pei?"
"We came from Anyuan," Ning Xiaoyao answered, "The officers and soldiers took our means to survive, so I wanted to take my brothers to seek shelter with Great Lord Xiang. Just now we all entered the camp and unexpectedly saw the brothers from the rebel forces fighting against the Northern Hu men. The elder brother who referred us was killed by the Northern Hu. We,” at this point, Ning Xiaoyao sighed before continuing, “When we heard that the fatuous ruler was heading south, we wanted to stop and slaughter him on the official road. We didn't expect to encounter this instead.”
The Dragon Guards: ... His Majesty is getting more and more skilled at telling lies!
Xiang Nong asked, "You guys are from the six states of Anyuan?"
"Yes. Great Lord Xiang can send people to the six states of Anyuan to ask questions. I, the Poison Widow, am well known to all the authorities. They know how ferocious I am!”
Once again, Xiang Nong gazed at Shadowgale and others. Shadowgale and the others were originally wearing the rebel forces’ uniforms. However, when they got to the stone pavilion, they had discarded those clothes. Now, they were only dressed in undergarments that were stained with mud, rain, and blood. Their faces were dirty, and since all the blood was mixed with mud, their true features were hidden.
"Father," Xiang Wanwan sobbed. She was crying her eyes out as Xiang Nong sized up Shadowgale and his team.
*Jianghu basically means “society” in Chinese.
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Stay tuned for chapter 355. I wish I could hurry but I am too slow. X_X (Should I blame the chapters for being too long? :P haha. Nah. I'm just slow.)
Lou Zigui isn't going to be back for a while! Oh, and poor Xiang Wanwan.
P.S. Do we have any readers who have already read the novel but are rereading it because of my/our translations? *wink wink nudge nudge*
P.P.S. Have you read my other Grace Time posts? Can men and women be purely friends?