Chapter 545: The End?

Xiao Tuo passed on the information as planned. She had never been so nervous about her future before.

Unfortunately, no matter what she desperately wished for, the outcome of the test was obvious.

Zu An’s suspicions were spot on. Jealousy had already cost Lian most of his reason. As information from the palace lessened and grew more infrequent, he couldn’t help but begin to doubt Xiao Tuo.

Then there was news from the palace that Xiao Tuo had been granted the status of lady, which silenced him completely.

He knew that even if he ascended to the throne, that was the most he would be able to offer her.

Now, Xiao Tuo had chosen this time to pass him new information, but how could he dare to trust it? He tossed the information straight into the trash.

Xiao Tuo waited anxiously for three days, but there was no response from Lian at all. All of her expectations gradually sunk into the abyss. At the same time, though, she felt a sense of relief rising within her.

If he really acted according to the information she’d given him, she wouldn’t have known how to face him.

Of course, all of this took place in her subconscious, and she was not truly aware of these thoughts or feelings.

Zu An, on the other hand, had already known that this result was inevitable. In reality, he had broken down her inner defenses a while ago, and only went through all of this trouble just to make it easier for her to accept reality, and to give her a reason for her to convince herself of the truth.

Zu An stopped behind her and gently wrapped his arms around her soft body. “It’s already past the agreed time. Are you convinced now?”

Xiao Tuo sighed. She made her decision and turned around. She bowed towards him. “My king, from today on, Xiao Tuo will be fully devoted to you. I give my everything to you.”

Zu An chuckled. “Pretty words are often not enough. Actions speak much louder.”

Xiao Tuo looked at him with annoyance, and a shy yet charming expression glistened within her eyes as she slowly knelt down.

Zu An’s breathing immediately sped up. Even though the two of them had spent so much time together and tried all sorts of things, he had never seen her be so proactive.

He had known that she was a spy all along, so he did not hold back, and taught her many ways of pleasuring him.

Back then, even though Xiao Tuo hadn’t objected to what he’d put her through, she couldn’t hide the shame in her eyes, nor prevent him from reaping the Rage points that she directed towards him.

He’d been quite nervous about letting her do such things before, because he was afraid that she had given up hope, and was willing to do anything to get revenge.

Even though only his soul had entered this trial, if it really was bitten off, there was no guarantee that his real body wouldn’t also be affected.

This left him walking a tight line between ecstasy and anxiety.

This time, however, it was completely different. She showed no hint of resentment. Instead, she was gentle and caring.

This was the final act that made Zu An believe that she had come over to his side. 

However, he suddenly saw a line of tears flowing down her cheek. Frowning, he helped her wipe them away and asked, “Are you still thinking about the past?”

Xiao Tuo sniffled, took a deep breath, then shook her head. “These tears are my final farewell to the past.”

Zu An’s heart welled up with sympathy when he heard these words. He took her into his arms, and then he walked towards the inner chamber. The atmosphere within the room gradually heated up.

Once Xiao Tuo switched allegiances, everything else followed along naturally. Zu An had already used false information to eliminate all of Lian’s men around the capital.

Lian was now completely alone. He only had several family members left, and was surrounded by spies sent by Zu An.

Dealing with Lian’s power base should have been extremely difficult. Not only was he the high priest, he was the son of a former king as well, and had a considerable amount of power.

However, Xiao Tuo was familiar with the resources at his disposal. With the information she provided, taking them down was a walk in the park.

When he had taken care of these matters, news finally arrived that Pei Mianman had been victorious. The Qiang Faction had suffered such a severe defeat that they had no chances of threatening the Shang State anymore.

When Pei Mianman returned with the army, Zu An personally set out with the court officials to greet her outside the city.

All of them agreed that such a move was appropriate. Not only was the king showing his love for his queen, such an act would also be a huge boost to the public’s morale.

Only Zu An himself knew that he was doing this mostly because he missed Pei Mianman. She had already been gone for several months. If it wasn’t because he had a lot of things to take care of within Yin Capital itself, he might have already run off to join her on the front lines.

Soon after they set out, an army appeared on the horizon. The one leading them rode on a white steed, and was dressed in beautiful golden armor. In the radiance of the morning sun she shone like a divine goddess.

“The queen really is pretty.”

“She is probably the number one beauty in our Great Shang State.”

“She isn’t only our number one beauty, she is also the number one war goddess!”

“Her chest really is massive, though!”

“Do you want to die?”

Many of the common folk had followed them outside the city to greet the returning heroes. Zu An wasn’t annoyed by their whispers, but smiled instead. This was also his first reaction upon seeing Pei Mianman again.

They had been separated for so long, and she was already his woman. He was in a good mood, so he didn’t mind their comments.

In the past, Pei Mianman had always had a flirtatious charm about her, which made her stand out amongst other women. But now, she exuded a heroic spirit that he knew could only be forged by the blood and flames of the battlefield.

These two characteristics melded together to give her an entirely unique aura.

Pei Mianman was also happy to see him, and immediately urged her horse over.

“All of you, stay here,” Zu An ordered his subordinates. “No one is allowed to come close to us.”

There were many things he and Pei Mianman had to discuss alone, which they couldn’t allow others to hear. Since the two of them were greatly honored individuals, none of the officials raised an objection.

“Manman, you’re finally back.” Zu An said with a sigh, holding her hand tenderly.

Pei Mianman snorted. “The palace might have burned down if I hadn’t returned. Do you know how many people were hounding me about how close you were to that Xiao Tuo girl?”

“I’m being wronged! That was all a scheme that the high priest came up with to separate us!” Zu An complained.

Pei Mianman looked amused. “So they were lying, then? There’s nothing going on between you and Xiao Tuo in the palace?”

Zu An was embarrassed. “That… was my way of beating them at their own game. I had to sacrifice myself to bring Xiao Tuo over to my side! If not, it would have been almost impossible to deal with the high priest!”

He explained the events that had transpired in the capital while she was gone.

Pei Mianman’s expression finally eased a little. “Only you could make being perverted sound like such an upright thing! I think you’re just abusing your authority.”

Zu An knew that she was still bitter about it, and that any further words would not help. Instead, he gave her a big hug. “Manman, thank you for your efforts.”

He knew even without asking that she had gone through a lot in order to defeat the savage Qiang Faction.

Pei Mianman’s voice softened. “You’ve been through a lot as well. At least I knew who my enemies were on the front lines. You had to face an unknown enemy inside the city, and had to constantly arrange for the necessary logistical support for our army. I received your yellow axe and white banner of authority. If not for your firm support, I might not have been able to accomplish what I needed to do so smoothly…”

The two of them poured out their hearts to each other as time ticked by. The other officials couldn’t help but become impatient, reminding them several times that they were still outside the city.

Pei Mianman pushed Zu An away in embarrassment, and the two of them led the throng back into the city.

Zu An used this victory to snuff out the final pocket of dissenters who had been making use of the chaos of the Qiang Faction invasion to stir up rebellion.

Lian was obviously one of his targets, and he had more than enough documentary proof to bring him down. Even without this proof, no one would have questioned Zu An and Pei Mianman, given their current authority and status within the state.

After Lina had been dealt with, Fu Shuo enacted their earlier plan to make Pei Mianman the high priest. All divine authority was now in the king’s hands.

As a reward for Pei Mianman’s achievements, the court decided to cast an owl statue and a jade phoenix for her. The jade badge that had previously belonged to Lian also went to her, as she was the new High Priest.

The two of them could both feel the ki flowing through these three articles, which had meticulous formations engraved on each of them. Every single artifact was unique and exceptional, and would have been considered priceless treasures in the real world.

Unfortunately, only their souls had entered this trial, and there was no way for them to extract these items into the physical world, so they didn’t grow too attached to them.

They had defeated the invading enemy from without, and quelled the dissent within. This should be enough to satisfy the requirements of the trial, right?

However, the sun continued to rise in the east and set in the west. As the days passed one after another, they still did not see any sign of the trial ending.

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