Tie Cheng's refined sword flashed luminously in mid-air before landing powerfully onto the lock but did not leave the slightest mark.
Tie Cheng was stunned. He then felt a cold gaze falling upon his back. Turning around, he caught sight of Hu Sang, who was standing outside of the noisy crowd and looking at him quietly.
Dazed, he remembered that Hu Sang's father was a reputable craftsman.
"My father refined it from a thousand-year steel piece that he had been keeping," Hu Sang informed him, somewhat mockingly. "You can't break it."
"Why? Why?" Tie Cheng growled. "Why must you do this?"
"She deserves to die." The hatred and jealousy Hu Sang felt toward Meng Fuyao was evident in her eyes. "She deserves it!"
Tie Cheng stared sluggishly at her, sensing immense agitation, despair and madness within her eyes. Standing in shock, he felt his heart slowly sinking.
The dull collision of the human body against city gate sounded like a muffled thunder on a summer's day. Blood seeped through the creaks and splattered all over Tie Cheng's fingers. He lowered his head. 'Is that Meng Fuyao?'
The specks of blood reminded him of the loneliness, desolateness, helplessness, and determination in her slightly reddened eyes before she left. They contained a warm and unyielding persistence, in which green smoke rose in spirals.
Such eyes shouldn't belong to a girl who was only 18 years of age.
A fate that involved blood and tears wasn't a responsibility this courageous girl should have to shoulder.
Tie Cheng fell onto his knees.
In the 19 years that he had been alive, he had never felt his knees or even neck turn weak. Yet, before the city gate and amid the dust he collapsed, solidly, onto the ground.
He started kowtowing before Hu Sang's eyes.
"Please, I beg you. Let her go. She's innocent..." Tie Cheng pleaded with blood and mud stuck on his face. Together with the bruises on his forehead, he was almost unrecognizable. Regardless of that, he continued smashing his head onto the ground and pleading in grief. It was his first time going down on his knees and begging for a girl who wasn't even a friend. Yet, in comparison to what the whole city owed her, he felt that he could never ever compensate for it.
"Please, save her. Key... where's the key? Give me the key... I'll exchange my whole family asset for it–––"
Hu Sang looked at him coldly, her eyes full of hatred. Some time later, she turned to leave.
"There's no key."
Tie Cheng knelt in a daze, his mind completely blank. Another thud sounded from behind him, and he knew not whose body had slammed against the door once more before falling to the ground. Tie Cheng daren't turn to look at the corpse. He was afraid of recognizing it as the girl he had so admired. He was afraid that he would never get to see those bright and firm eyes of hers. He was afraid that he would have to live with the permanent fact that he had watched her, with his own eyes, go out there and battle her way out of the enemy's hands, only to die by his own people's selfishness and doubt.
Tie Cheng raised his head and let out another shrieking cry.
Yet another anguished wailing could be heard as the second last man in black died under a fierce wave of attack.
The Rong army did not release their arrows. They let out a cold smile and looked at Meng Fuyao like how a cat would a mouse. They enjoyed seeing how she was unable to enter the city, how she was being betrayed by her own people upon killing countless of their young soldiers, and how the city guards simply looked on at her, unmoved and unconvinced.
They laughed at their heart's content.
Meng Fuyao had already fallen into silence at this point.
She was as quiet as a bare yet pencil-straight tree, her expression as cold as frozen water.
She leaned against the door that probably wasn't going to open, the blood over her body transforming into mottled prints on the wall. It was the last gift she could give to the city. Right here, before the city gate where her blood-filled body rested and where corpses lay beside her, Meng Fuyao was ultimately unable to clear the doubt and anger of the city guards. She had no future.
She swept her gaze across the field of the blood-stained ground.
On it were three corpses with missing skeletons, and only the leading man in black was left by her side, and even then, he was already severely injured.
This elite team had almost been wiped out because of her. The leader of the team was struggling as he retrieved a dagger meant for close-range combat. He staggered forward, prepared to use his remaining breath to take on the bloodthirsty enemy with him.
Meng Fuyao dug her fingers into the city wall, causing blood to ooze out from her fingertips.
It was blood from her heart.
It was a city she had resided in for two months. She was truly fond of it and truly felt the warmth within it. She enjoyed the cordial greetings that traveled around during the morning and evenings, and she enjoyed the warmth that she had never experienced before this. She cherished and yearned for more of it, and because of that, precisely, she had chosen to assume the responsibility of protecting the city at the most challenging time instead of ignoring it. She hadn't expected an outcome like this.
In response to her sacrifice and investment, the citizens had cast her outside their door.
She had never expected them to throw their lives away for her.
Was there any logic in the affairs of the world?
And in regard to such a deranged situation, was there a reason for her to continue?
Tie Cheng's grief-stricken and indignant cry, followed by his hopeless wailing, shot through the sky and into Meng Fuyao's ears.
She took in a deep breath and looked up into the sky. A vague smile could be seen spreading onto her face. It was peaceful, warm, tolerant and extensive, just like the dream that was perpetually drifting above her.
Her eyes turned moist.
The village that was left behind, the idea that was resolute, and the hope that was fluttering in her dreams, were calling out for her. Was this outcome going to enable her to return to the start?
If she was destined not to escape death, why should she drag others along with her?
That... was good too.
"Sir," she called out, reaching a hand out to grab the approaching man in black. "No need."
The man appeared rather shocked, as Meng Fuyao looked at him calmly. "They want me dead. Once that's done, they won't touch you anymore. I can't drag you down."
"You're joking, Miss," the man responded after a short while. With a slight smile, he asked, "Do you think they'll let me go? I've killed so many of their people."
Meng Fuyao remained silent for some time. "We'll die together then. I was planning to get you to convey a message, but it looks like that's not happening. I only have a request, that is, please destroy my corpse and don't let me fall into the Rongsmen's hands.
"Alright," the man in black sat, hands pressing down on his knees, "Master had ordered me to protect you. Whether I live or die, I would've completed my mission."
Meng Fuyao smiled and bent her body, knocking on the city door and speaking through the gap, "I know you've tried your best, Tie Cheng, don't cry." She paused for a while before continuing in an unsteady voice, "Please forgive... I'll repay you in the next life."
In the next life, in the next life.
To those whom I care about, have stopped for, gazed a second time for, and thanked before, please forgive me for giving up. As for the next life... let's hope fate allows it.
Meng Fuyao shut her eyes and pulled her sword out.
Her sword, Destiny Rebellion, had taken countless lives, and it was finally her turn.
The thin yet snow-bright sword body reflected the pale yet resolute mien.
Amid the bloodied sand before the city gate, the lonely figure of the man in black could be seen shielding his eyes from the dazzling sword that was held horizontally across her fair neck.
Both armies made no sound as they waited apathetically for the girl to end her life.
Meng Fuyao shut her eyes slowly.
She had already bid her farewell to whomever she could; as for those whom she couldn't, she could only keep it in her heart.
Having her life in this other world end at age 18, before she could fulfill her wishes, was something she hadn't imagined. Nevertheless, as things had progressed thus far, she actually felt calm, as though she was one with the water and was about to reach its end.
Just like that.
She pulled her sword back, its ray flashing by.
"Meng Fuyao! Don't you dare die on me!"
A red object, carrying a gust of fishy stench, whizzed toward her and slammed onto the tip of her sword blade.
The object felt soft, but it approached with such violence that Meng Fuyao, who was already extremely feeble and powerless, lost grip of her sword. In spite of that, the sharp blade had left a slit across her neck, where blood slowly poured out.
Meng Fuyao lowered her head to look at the ground, spotting a crooked ear through her hazy and bloodied vision. Someone had thrown a severed ear to save her life.
"Mother... how melodramatic... couldn't you have come up with something more novel..." Meng Fuyao mumbled while struggling to support her own weight. "Which bastard dared to stop me from dying a martyr?"
"You're the bastard."
A black-and-red whirlwind rolled over, as an extended hand seized Meng Fuyao's fallen sword and then pulled her up and onto a horse saddle.
"Woman, I keep you out of my sight one moment, and you get yourself into trouble."
Meng Fuyao rested against the gear and coughed. Having no mood to entertain Zhan Beiye and his scowling face, she murmured, "You came alone? Leave, don't make me kill another innocent being..."
"Why don't you take a clear look at who you're talking to?" Zhan Beiye asked unhappily. "Are those third-rate soldiers my match?" He tore a section of his sleeve and wrapped it around her neck before scanning through her injuries. Upon figuring that the entire fabric of his clothing wasn't going to be enough to wrap her wounds up, he frowned in uncontrollable anger.
He whipped his head around, his pupils black as a stormy night. His aura was akin to raging flames as he ordered, "Dark Wind Horses, kill all of them. Don't just jab a few holes out of them if you can flatten them, and don't just flatten them if you can pulverize them."
"Dark Wind Horses?" Meng Fuyao repeated, almost bursting into laughter amid her half-conscious state. "Blind boasting isn't the right way to go. They're your specially trained soldiers, huh? But this is Wuji and not Tiansha..."