'What a formidable opponent, on both battlefield politics and even affairs of the heart.'
Zhan Beiye took in a deep breath, instantly feeling his emotions surge. His ever brewing bellicose genes rose as he glared at Zhangsun Wuji with glistening eyes. With a cold smile, he said, "Good, very good. There's no way for the both of us to exist together anyway."
"Thank you for your magnanimity," Zhangsun Wuji bowed slightly, "I'll use this jade to remind myself of how precious and worthy Meng Fuyao is. I'll also use it to warn myself that it's a betrothal gift for her, and if I fail to act in alignment with her heart, I'll hand this over to her."
Zhan Beiye's eyes flashed as Meng Fuyao raised her brows. 'Return it to me? You'd do that? You look generous but are actually competitive and confident, huh…'
"But shouldn't you make an appropriate vow and consequence as well?" Zhangsun Wuji shifted the conversation toward Zhan Beiye, his tone sharp. "If you can't treat her the way you promise and if you do not persevere, shouldn't you leave on your own accord and hand this valuable pendant over to the nation's treasury?"
Zhan Beiye opened his eyes wide, the expression in his eyes fluctuating. After some time he burst into laughter, responding, "Trying to bind me? Good one, Zhangsun Wuji. Are you supervising me? I finally know why you took my jade. You know Fuyao's soft-hearted, and you are afraid that she would be touched by my words and accept it. You're apprehensive about the friendship we share and chose to "retreat", accepting this gift as an attack and forcing me to swear. If I were to slip in future, you would destroy it on her behalf, and she wouldn't say anything. I, too, would be too ashamed to continue my pursuit. How scheming!"
"Haven't you done the same? It's a verbal trap that one who is confident of his genuineness and ability to pass the test of time would jump into." Zhangsun Wuji let out a subtle smile. "War God, it's a battle between us two. Are you up for it?"
"Why not?" Zhan Beiye agreed immediately. "There's nothing in this world that I daren't do. Do you really think that victory is in your hands? I'll show you that I, Zhan Beiye, can conquer the world and capture a heart."
Zhangsun Wuji responded with a smile before keeping the pendant in his sleeves. Both men raised their gaze, instantly sending fiery sparks across the room. Again, Meng Fuyao felt a lightning bolt split, causing her a bout of dizziness, as if electrocuted.
Without a word she crawled onto her bed and covered her head with the quilt.
'Can't stand it, can't stand it… why such deep feelings? Why such a sentimental confession? Why such tenderness and meticulous? Why explain everything so clearly? Can't they just talk to themselves at different corners? I'm scared out of my wits right now…'
She pulled the quilt tightly against her skin in anguish. 'Please forget about me, please, please forget about me…'
It was then that Meng Fuyao felt how small a figure she was.
Her definition of "a small figure" was a person who would never ever be able to grasp and control the thoughts and intentions of big figures.
After a night of insomnia, small figure Meng Fuyao finally comprehended Zhangsun Wuji's love tactics: Forcing isn't forcing, and not forcing is forcing. To force without pressure, and to force one's heart instead of the person himself…
Since things had turned out this way and both had claimed not to compel her into making a choice, they would only need to work hard and perform well. Yet, Meng Fuyao felt as though she had already been driven to a dead corner and the situation was absolutely helpless.
That night, her rest was disturbed time after time. Zhan Beiye had personally delivered medicine while Zhangsun Wuji had helped tuck her in. The former was eager to feed her but was sternly rejected: "I'm able-bodied so why do you need to feed me?" As for Zhangsun Wuji, all Meng Fuyao could think of was: "Please, do it quick. I've deliberately bared half a shoulder to catch your attention. Do it, and I'll fall sound asleep."
Ultimately, War God ZHan snorted and carried the empty bowl out, while Zhangsun Wuji took a seat upon tucking her in. Fair fight indeed.
Now, with his usual smile, Zhangsun Wuji answered, "Fuyao, only fools or people with a nerve short would believe in absolute fairness and that it is possible to abide by all rules."
'… Alright.' Meng Fuyao tore at the fact that both Zhan Beiye and herself had been shut off without even noticing.
The good thing was that Zhangsun Wuji did not act inappropriately. All he did was to shift closer to the part above her shoulder. He had given reasonable space and time while doing that.
When those two were done disturbing her night, small figure Meng Fuyao detached herself and attempted to rationalize the situation from an outsider's perspective. Thinking about how events would develop in future, she couldn't help but sigh on behalf of the smart but honest Zhan Beiye.
The King De incident had ended for now, and he was detained in Huazhou at the moment. Meng Fuyao made some calculations and realized that the True Martial Arts Meet, which would be held in Tiansha, was about to commence. She would most definitely expose herself to the different schools out there to gain another breakthrough for Nine Cleaving Heavens.
Before, she had asked Zong Yue about the shrine in Qiongcang. Being licensed in all seven nations, Zong Yue could easily enter wherever he pleased. However, Qiongcang was still out of bound for him. The most he could do was to pick herbs from outside the shrine. That time, he had told Meng Fuyao that it was difficult to even enter Qiongcang, and successful entry did not mean that she would make it into the shrine. Outside the shrine were four godly barriers – Jiuyou, Anjing, Yunfu, and Tiancheng – meant to seize lives. Even the top players were doomed to fail passing through.
Meng Fuyao drew a cold breath before asking Zong Yue what standard was required for someone to pass through all the obstacles. "If you can improve your so-so skill to, say, the 8th level, you should be fine."
A world-class "Nine Cleaving Heavens" had, through Zong Yue's mouth, become a so-so skill. "8th level and you should be fine"? Meng Fuyao had on a bitter face upon the realization that news she had heard from the marketplace weren't accurate enough. It seemed that collecting all seven passes wasn't the most difficult part. She had to work on her own ability.
As Meng Fuyao pondered over the best way to bid Zhangsun Wuji farewell and then get away from Zhan Beiye to travel to Tiansha, she heard Zong Yue mention that Guo Pingrong's Master Fang Yimo was near Huazhou and could possibly visit his disciple. Zong Yue was planning to meet with Fang Yimo and see if he could obtain the antidote and formula of "Emotion Lock".
Upon gaining news of that, Zhan Beiye was naturally not going to give up on the chance. Not bearing to escape while having them do so much for her, she could only follow them to Huazhou.
Before setting out, an imperial edict reached Yaocheng from Wuji court. It was a letter to commend Meng Fuyao for her heroic act and to bestow her Yaocheng, Suishui, and the land of the two Rongs. She was also given an enormous amount of golden pearls. She received the edict in the main hall, with 100,000 Yaocheng soldiers standing before the office.
Cheers erupted as Meng Fuyao stepped out in a third-grade military officer robe. Countless Hans citizens burned bamboos and sprinkled water on the path to celebrate the occasion.
Meng Fuyao stood on stage, staring somewhat blankly at the crowd and mumbling, "Is this necessary?"
"Why not?" Zhangsun Wuji asked. "You're worth it."
"I didn't do anything," Meng Fuyao insisted with a listless smile. "I simply displayed the bravery of an ordinary fellow and had almost caused trouble. Quite silly, in fact."
"How many own that bravery?" Zhangsun Wuji challenged. "Fuyao, to brave through a sea of enemies is easier said than done. Anyone can say it, but none in millions can do it."
Meng Fuyao smiled and waved at the people. While she needed no rewards, to exchange the blood that had been lost, the gratitude and grudges that had been discarded and the sacrifice and hard work that had been made and put in for that sentence of him was still a blissful thing.
"You pulled strings?" she asked Zhangsun Wuji smilingly.
"Father doesn't know who Meng Fuyao is," he answered, "It's purely based on merits. Fuyao, the city is reborn thanks to you, and King De's army has crumbled thanks to you. You completely deserve the honor and glory that has been given to you. It has nothing to do with you knowing me."
Meng Fuyao raised her brows, responding, "What do I need these 2 cities for? I'm not going to stay here my whole life."
Zhangsun Wuji turned to look at her, and she shrank her neck in guilt. "Yaocheng and Suishui will forever belong to you. No one can ever seize the things you protected with your own ability."
His words were meaningful, and Meng Fuyao's neck shrank back a little more. "I'm going to pee," she informed, quickly turning away and shooting off. Lord Yuan Bao squatted imposingly on her shoulder. The guinea pig had recently realized that the view from her shoulder carried a different flavor.
For example, he could then get a clearer view of his master.
Lord Yuan Bao felt that while Meng Fuyao wasn't as unlikeable as before, she was still a little annoying. For example, to whom his master belonged to was a matter of principles, and he couldn't give up. A good guinea pig wouldn't ever despise his owner, and a good Yuan Bao would never not want to defeat his love rival.
That day, he had witnessed the jade pendant scene between the two men while chewing on a candy. He was in full admiration of his owner. He was impressed by his craftiness and gradual advancement. He was even able to turn defeat into victory under such harsh conditions. The fool Zhan wasn't his match at all. Nevertheless, the guinea pig thought, 'If Fool Zhan was a capable rival, he could perhaps take Meng Fuyao away and leave Zhangsun Wuji for me.'
As such, he sat on Meng Fuyao's shoulder, sucking on a snack he was given earlier and seriously wondering how he could sell her away.