Long Feiye knew the Lustbite energy thoroughly, but he still didn’t understand what had happened. In the end, he could only pin the reason on Han Yunxi’s phoenix energy. That was an unexpected discovery that neither of them understood. Although it appeared after their dual cultivation began, it still affected them.
“Could the Phoenix energy be why?” Han Yunxi had thought of the same thing.
Lustbite energy and Nirvana Heart Hearts had no issues, so the suspicion fell on the last outlier. They had once rejoiced over discovering this strength in Medicine Requesting Cave, but now it wasn’t clear whether this was a blessing or a curse. Gu Beiyue and Gu Qishao all shared Long Feiye’s suspicions. They knew nothing about Phoenix energy and Pill Furnace Master had already offered all he knew. Their own recourse now was to ask the sword sect master. If this was the past, Long Feiye would be asking his master and sending subordinates to dig up intel. But he didn’t dare move lightly now.
Not many people knew he and Han Yunxi were dual cultivating at all. If someone made inquiries and leaked the information, it would do more harm than good.
“It’s fortunate that there wasn’t cultivation deviation!” Gu Qishao looked faintly towards Han Yunxi as he muttered to himself.
“We cannot grow lax. Your Highness, it’s best to tell this to Jianxin senior,” Gu Beiyue intoned.
Long Feiye wrote yet another letter to the sword sect master while clearly explaining their situation. This time, the reply came swiftly. Like Long Feiye, the sword sect master suspected that the “Phoenix energy” was the problem. He even instructed them to be prudent despite suffering no ill effects. They should make their way to Celestial Mountain as soon as the first snows melted. The three Honored Elders would personally take their pulse and try to find the cause.
Long Feiye had just finished saying his master’s intentions when an anxious voice rose up outside.
“Then what about Tiger’s Prison? Are you guys still going to rescue them?”
Soon enough, the long-time-no-see Tang Li bustled into the room. He had not only grow thinner, but wan and sallow. The Tang Clan had a few batches of newly-forged weapons that needed to be sharpened and he was required to attend the sharpening ceremony as its clan head. After that was done, Lady Tang had forced him to stay home for a few more days. As soon as she heard Ning Jing was pregnant, Lady Tang’s heart had turned fully to Tang Li’s side. She wanted to come with him back to Three-Way Black Market and join the rescue team, but Tang Zijin managed to stop her. Meanwhile, Tang Li had dashed back as soon as he heard Long Feiye’s group was here early.
Now look, the first thing he heard was them going to Celestial Mountain.
“Even if it’s going to Celestial Mountain, it’ll wait until after we rescue them back!” Han Yunxi declared.
“Unacceptable!” Gu Beiyue was the first to object. Something like this couldn’t be delayed or rushed. “Princess, the punitive expedition to the north is a major undertaking. You cannot afford to treat it as a trifle!”
“We’ll save the people first, then go to Celestial Mountain. The punitive expedition can be handed over to the officers and men,” Gu Qishao stuck in impatiently. He didn’t understand worldly affairs nor did he care. He only knew that Poison lass would be in danger unless they figure out the problem with the dual cultivation and Phoenix energy. In his eyes, Poison lass’s safety came first.
“Exactly, exactly. Save the people first, that’s important!” Tang Li agreed with Gu Qishao for the first time. He too, knew nothing of worldly affairs nor cared. Ning Jing and the child’s safety were number one in his eyes!
He glanced at Long Feiye with a pleading look. “Big bro, it’s better to rescue the people first! Then make arrangements for the northern campaign. After the snow melts, you and sister-in-law will be able to go to the mountain. As long as you arrange things well for the campaign, nothing will go wrong!” His gaze never left Long Feiye’s as he finished, just like the days he used to plea with this big brother for favors when they were both children.
He knew that if the duo were deadset on personally leading the campaign, then the rescue mission would be delayed until after their return from Celestial Mountain. Once the Northern Li civil war developed into a stalemate, there’d be no difference between heading up north in the summer versus the spring. His big brother and sister-in-law could simply head off to Celestial Mountain first, then come back to save the captives.
“Big bro, Ning Jing’s close to giving birth!” Tang Li begged. “The original agreement was to go save them as soon as you guys came back!”
If not for Ning Jing’s letter forcing him to stay calm, he would have ran off to Tiger’s Prison on his own by now. How could a husband allow his pregnant wife to remain in danger?
Long Feiye looked at his thin and pallid little brother and didn’t say a word. This was an answer that required too much thought before any change in plans.
“Tang Clan Head, this is the first alliance between East and West Qin and the start of their icebreaker. His Highness and the princess must personally lead the campaign, or else there’ll be internal unrest before we ever reach Northern Li!” Gu Beiyue was all prudence.
He had outlined the biggest problem of the punitive expedition to the north. When the alliance was first proposed, the Di Clan had asked for certain rights. Once it was time to really work together, the Di Clan troops would definitely have more demands. The Baili Army weren’t easy to deal with either, much less those forces under the south central commander-in-chief’s office. All sides wanted power and would fight to pave their paths for the future.
“Worse comes to worst, don’t do the campaign and rescue the people first. Just prepare the soldiers and don’t deploy them,” Gu Qishao offered a lousy idea, but Tang Li quickly nodded to show his approval.
Finally, Long Feiye spoke. “That’s absolutely impossible!”
The only reason they’d put off the rescue team was to avoid startling the snake in the grass. Once they saved the captives, Bai Yuqiao’s betrayal and Ning Cheng’s machinations would both be exposed. Northern Li’s ending was more or less fixed with heavy losses on Jun Yixie and the emperor’s sides. They were entering their period of stalemate, which left Jun Yixie’s forces as ripe pickings for the combined might of the Di Clan and East Qin Army. Thus, exposing Ning Cheng’s plans now wouldn’t actually affect the outcome.
However, they couldn’t just save the hostages and forget about the Di Clan! Once Jun Yixie found out he’d been tricked, he was very likely to lead his troops straight south to attack Tianning. Northern Li’s emperor would be happiest to see him leave and wouldn’t chase after his forces. He wouldn’t have any left to spare, anyways. In other words, once Jun Yixie headed south, Tianning would become the focal point of all battles. If the Di Clan hadn’t allied itself with the East Qin Army, they would have difficulty fighting Jun Yixie off.
In short, they had to be thoroughly prepared for a northern campaign if they were going to save anyone. Then they could rescue hostages on one end while launching an immediate attack on the next to catch the enemy unprepared. This was the best and only choice. Otherwise, both Ning Cheng and the Di Clan would be in danger!
After Long Feiye finished explaining everything, Tang Li immediately retorted, “Big bro, how about this? Let’s save the hostages and then transfer troops here. Together with the Di Clan, we’ll guard the Three-Way Battlefield instead of heading up north. We can meet Jun Yixie when he attacks the south!”
Then Tianning wouldn’t be any danger. But Long Feiye only asked coldly, “What about Ning Cheng?”
Although Long Feiye had a private grudge with the man and hated him for treating Han Yunxi so disrespectfully, he would never go back on his word during the first ever icebreaker alliance between their two forces, much less use it as an excuse to sacrifice Ning Cheng. Long Feiye had avenged personal wrongs in the name of public interest plenty of times in the past--and very well, too, enough to make one shiver. But this time, he knew he had to endure it no matter how much enmity he held against Ning Cheng. When it came to affairs of state, he focused on the affairs and not the people. He said the name “Ning Cheng” so calmly that it ended up amazing his listeners.
Han Yunxi was the most surprised of all. She could see the situation clearly, but couldn’t fathom Long Feiye’s true attitude towards Ning Cheng and the Di Clan. Now she understood and treated her husband with a deep respect as well as love.
Once Jun Yixie found out that Ning Cheng had tricked him, he would definitely make the man suffer a fate worse than death! Even now, Ning Cheng was being brought along on Jun Yixie’s expeditions. He hadn’t been sent back to the Di Clan at all, making his position painfully obvious. Jun Yixie didn’t fully trust Ning Cheng, so the man was the biggest counter in his hands. If he was angered, wouldn’t he kill the hostage?
In some ways, the alliance between East and West Qin was made singlehandedly possible by Ning Cheng; their first time working together came about because Ning Cheng won Jun Yixie’s trust enough to create the chance; the fact that Jun Yixie took to the battlefields so soon was also because Ning Cheng had calculated him into the plans. More than anyone else, Ning Cheng must be looking forward to their punitive expedition north. He was willing to sacrifice himself for their campaign, but they could never suspend the expedition and sacrifice him in turn. Furthermore, once Jun Yixie killed his hostage, chaos would break out in the Di Clan and its trade consortium. Would Myriad Merchant Hall fall prey to internal disputes as well? Would they even continue to cooperate with Long Feiye’s side? Everything would turn uncertain.
Ning Cheng had absolute leadership over the Di Clan. Even she as the West Qin princess couldn’t control them as well as he did. His death would only spell chaos in the Di Clan’s forces.
“Big bro!” Tang Li still wanted to argue, but Han Yunxi spoke up next.
She said, “Tang Li, Ning Jing definitely wouldn’t want to see her big brother...die discontent at Jun Yixie’s hands.”
Only then did Tang Li realize the heavy implications on his choice. He froze, knowing full well the extent of Ning Jing’s feelings for her brother and the Di Clan. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have refused to come to terms with the Tang Clan for so long after being tempted and threatened by them while harboring Tang Li in her heart.
“This matter requires further discussion,” Long Feiye concluded as he turned towards Xu Donglin. “Have the newest reports from Northern Li’s armies delivered here. Also, ask Myriad Merchant Hall on the status of Bai Yuqiao’s side.”
Abruptly, Gu Qishao cut in. “Long Feiye, if you won’t bring Poison lass to Celestial Mountain, this old man will!” He was truly someone who didn’t give a damn about anything else. The hell did the world’s affairs have to do with him?!
Long Feiye actually agreed. “Fine. After the snows melt, you take her there.”
This matter was too thorny but the solution was simple: have Han Yunxi go to Celestial Mountain first to get her pulse examined by the Honored Elders, thus seeking out the reason for the failed dual cultivation. He could stay behind and preside over the master plans of the East-West Qin alliance, then personally lead the expedition to the north!
“Done!” Gu Qishao was thoroughly satisfied.
Yet Han Yunxi’s gaze grew gloomy as she stared at the two men in silence…
At times like this I wish the main character team had more superpowered types so Tang Li can just get his own team to do the rescuing. So many things rely on LFY and HYX being around...but I guess that puts them in the spotlight all the time!