Different Year, Same Thing (Part 9)
One on one, Ming Suwen would maul the young masters. That didn’t mean they were weaklings, though. If Ling Qingshu wasn’t unexpectedly put out of commission on Mount Night Net, resulting in them losing their figurative spine, they would’ve been a lot more aggressive. After witnessing her clash to a draw with their leader, nevertheless, none of them wanted to initiate a physical altercation with her.
Putting on his cultured act, Ling Qingshu pressed his palm to his fist in front of him. “This one is Ling Qingshu. I apologise for not asking for your name on the mountain, Miss, but we were in a bit of a rush.”
Ming Suwen giggled as she held her hand on an angle to block out the harmful sunrays: “You have a way with words, Young Master Ling. How can I be a ‘Miss’ when I am married?”
Ling Qingshu suppressed his hatred for Ming Feizhen and kept up his act, replying, “It is only a term for addressing you, Ma’am M-”
Ming Suwen cut Ling Qingshu off, shaking her head. In a grumpy, yet endearing tone, she objected, “My surname is also Ming. There’s no need to call me Ma’am Ming. ‘Miss’ certainly does sound better. I don’t want to sound old.”
“Apologies, Miss Ming.”
“A woman who would accept being called “Miss” when she’s married is no loyal woman. Add that to her bold actions I saw, and I’m sure she’s no proper wife. I can probably lull her into my bed. Perfect, just my cup of tea,” thought Ling Qingshu. “May this one ask what you wish to discuss, Miss Ming?”
Ming Suwen flirtatiously raised the corner of her lips and responded, “I thought you were a wise man, but you don’t seem to be as sensible as I thought.”
“How has this one disappointed you?”
“Look,” gently uttered Ming Suwen, pointing to Xie Duzhe and company. “We can’t have a fair discussion when you have so many hostages, can we?”
Rationality still intact, Ling Qingshu politely disputed, “How does our business have anything to do with them? They are prisoners this one personally subdued. He cannot release them just because you demand their release.”
“Hehehe, have you forgotten you were our prisoner a while ago?”
Ling Qingshu raised his guard in case Ming Suwen was waiting to react to her provocations and attack them. He took a brief silence to relax his shrugged shoulders and forced a gentleman’s smile: “You merely want this one to release those lapdogs. Generosity has always been his forte. Don’t just stand there. Release them.”
They threw aside the Qilin Guards, literally, and sealed their meridians. With time, Xie Duzhe had the skill and strength to undo his meridian seal, however. There was no need for Ling Qingshu to worry about a vengeance as his father, maternal grandpa and sister would protect him from Qilin Guards no matter what. Xie Duzhe would be assassinated down the road if Ling Qingshu already killed, not that the former could do anything about it.
“I’m starting to like you; you’re obedient. Would you comply if I told you to go die?”
“Why must you try to entertain this one with such questions, Miss? This one is not tolerant, but he released them out of respect for you. Now, can you tell this one why you requested he release the imperial court’s lapdogs.”
“Is it so hard to fathom?”
“Naturally. Any wise man could see the secrets Night Fortress harbours. Your husband is Jiangnan’s biggest troublemaker. Once Constable Xie returns to the imperial court, the military will soon sortie. Why did you go to the trouble of saving them?”
Ming Suwen nodded as if she was listening to a boring lecture: “The logic is right, but the speaker isn’t. That is the duty of a subject. A lapdog is one who risks his wellbeing to catch prey. There is no faction in all the land that would define the term ‘lapdog’ better than the Seven Champion White Princes. People would laugh if they heard what you just said.”
Ming Suwen’s sharp tongue prompted Ling Qingshu to lick his dry lips: “This one has already released them as per your request. Can you cut to the chase now?”
“I don’t like having people make a scene while I speak.”
Ming Suwen took out a comb made from an elephant trunk from her shirt to comb her hair gracefully, ensuring not a strand was misplaced.
“What? You trying to shoo us off?!”
Recoiling Wind Blade’s son, grinning, commented, “Even if you’re now widow and want Big Brother Ling’s embrace, you don’t have to shoo us off. We can cheer you on from the sidelines and, if you need it, can swap out f-”
Recoiling Wind Blade’s son let out bloody fireworks from his mouth as he crash landed on the ground. Meanwhile, Ming Suwen kept combing her hair nonchalantly. Five of the young masters weren’t aware their shock was already on their face, and they kept putting one leg behind the other. Ling Qingshu had to signal for them to stop making a fuss and aggressed, “It does not appear you are interested in a business discussion.”
“I was making a point: I don’t need underhanded tricks to kill punching bags. I just don’t like people making a scene. Moreover, secrets are called secrets for a reason.”
“What do you want, then?”
“Simple: I’ll disarm. Dare to come for a walk?” asked Ming Suwen, throwing her sword into a creek nearby without hesitation.
Ming Suwen took off while Ling Qingshu was musing, prompting him to give chase after the beautiful smile. From a speed and efficiency standpoint, they were equals in the qinggong department, maintaining a constant gap between them like lovebirds flirting.
Ming Suwen halted at a quiet bamboo forest and swivelled around: “This place will do.”
Ling Qingshu stopped easily at the same time and surveyed the area: “This place will do? Are we not going to travel a few more kilometres?”
“Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary will launch its assault on Hangzhou within two days, correct?” questioned Ming Suwen, cutting to the chase.
“What do you mean?!” exclaimed Ling Qingshu, thinking, “We only decided that yesterday, and Night Fortress only met us today. How does she know about it?”
“It’s not hard to guess. Ling Haozhong’s character isn’t praiseworthy, and his son, whom he personally raised, reflects his character to an extent. Ling Hanzhong is not a man who would be satisfied with being an unknown patriarch. He’s provoked fights more than once using the same tactic. He has done things under the guise of other things more than a few times. All you need to do is mention the surname ‘Ling’, and I can be confidently say he plans to swiftly catch the ringleader first in order to capture all the followers again.”
“Astute, you are… How do you evaluate our operation?” Ling Qingshu queried, confident it made no difference to his inexorable victory even if he owned up to their plans.
Ming Suwen giggled after looking around: “A pointless endeavour.”
Ling Qingshu snapped, “What do you mean?”
“Considering even the Qilin Guards are here after your conspicuous approach, you think His Majesty’s entourage would be oblivious? There are plenty of ways to assert one’s dominance, yet you chose the most inane method. You think nobody is watching when you’ve taken over Changzhou and Jiujiang?
“Do you know what will happen while you are marching into Hangzhou? The Qilin Guards waiting for a chance to add a merit to their list of accomplishments will jump at the opportunity to elevate their standing. Their grand commander will take to the field to squander your forces. They are no longer the Qilin Guards you knew; they only need an opportunity to shine now. You have every right not to trust me. Nevertheless, it won’t change the reality that you will become famous for being their stepping stone to glory.”
“Enough! I have been very tolerant with you over and over again, but enough is enough. What business do you have to discuss?!”
As a smile bloomed on Ming Suwen’s lips, she pulled a branch up from the ground as if she could use telekinesis and clasped it. She pointed it at Ling Qingshu and elucidated, “It’s simple, really. I said all of that to suggest a deal: give me your head, and you’ll be able to rest in peace.”