The Eastern Promotion Hall was both dignified and striking. Although it was supposed to be a guest hall, it gave off the air of a guest palace instead. Currently, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were sitting high up in the seats of honor for the hosts at the center. Side by side, their nanmu wood chairs were only separated by a tea table in between. The fragance of tea curled up into the air of the silent room.
Next to the hosts’ seats were two rows of chairs. On Long Feiye’s side sat Tang Li and Gu Beiyue, while twelve sat on Han Yunxi’s side. The first seats were taken by Ning Nuo, then Myriad Merchant Hall’s five elders, Cloud Realm Trade Consortium’s three elders, and the military faction’s three deputy generals. Once everyone was seated, Long Feiye didn’t get a chance to call out for tea because Ning Nuo gestured for the head elder next to him to open up a seat.
He then teased Gu Beiyue, “Beiyue, come sit over here.” The way he said his name felt like the two were on familiar terms. Although Ning Nuo only said one sentence, everyone was smart enough to know what he meant. As a member of the Shadow Clan, Gu Beiyue was a member of the West Qin faction. How could he be sitting on Long Feiye’s side?
Gu Beiyue didn’t decline the offer, but simply smiled and walked over. Pleased with this turn of events, Ning Nuo stood up to welcome him. “Beiyue, the Shadow and Di Clans were the best of friends in the past. Over the past few years, my big brothers and I were searching for its heirs nonstop. I never thought it’d be you!”
Gu Beiyue didn’t answer, but made a modest gesture and said, “Young Master Nuo, sit.”
“Sit, sit!” Ning Nuo hastily returned the greeting. The two of them sat down at the same time, whence Ning Nuo scooted over in low tones, “Beiyue, when we took you hostage back then, it really was…”
Again, Gu Beiyue deferred with a mild tone. “No need to bring up matters of the past. What’s important is today.”
Despite looking ill and weak, he seemed like an iron fortress. No blades could pierce through his defenses, nor could anyone get past his amiable front. Ning Nuo had called him “Beiyue” twice, but failed to close the distance between them. Despite this failure, the various elders in the back and Deputy General Xue were all proud of the results. They had come with intentions to negotiate, so Gu Beiyue’s seat had made them feel like a winner before they even begun. With more people on their side, it was fully possible to impose their will against Long Feiye. Deputy General Xue was especially pleased because today’s talks would mostly center around military matters.
Long Feiye simply spared the Di Clan delegation one glance before returning to more pressing missives in his hands. Very soon, he finished reading the message and turned to mutter something to Xu Donglin in hushed tones. Only then did the discussions begin.
But again, he’d hardly opened his mouth when a rampant and unruly laugh floated in from outside. “You didn’t call me for something this lively? Poison lass, that’s dishonest!”
Everyone turned to see Gu Qishao striding inside. He gave Tang Li a scornful look, then went to sit on the Di Clan side in the very last seat.
“Thankfully I came before we ran out of seats!” Gu Qishao muttered to himself.
Han Yunxi was secretly harboring a bitter smile. The day Gu Qishao stops causing chaos is the day I’ll think he’s acting off.
Just like that, the Di Clan side was completely filled out, leaving Tang Li sitting by himself in a row of empty seats. Seeing this made Deputy General Xue and his compatriots both laugh secretly up their sleeve. How awkward it must be for Tang Li.
Tang Li looked left and right and almost felt like his big bro was unpopular.
“Long Feiye, still not serving the tea? Is this how you treat your guests?” Gu Qishao muttered. With his support, the Di Clan members grew more confident and smug. But Long Feiye only treated him as air as he focused on Ning Nuo.
“Who’s the one calling the shots at the Di Clan now?”
All of the Di Clan grew stiff at the question. There was no real leader amongst them now. Although Ning Nuo had the status, he lacked the power and ability; although Myriad Merchant Hall’s Council of Elders had the power and ability, they were heavily split amongst themselves; although the elders of Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and the deputy generals had no right to make decisions, they were direct participants in the upcoming war and needed to be present for the talks. The military faction was very strong and didn’t fear Myriad Merchant Hall cutting off their funds during critical junctures. Thus, they had various differences with the hall. Meanwhile, the trade consortium was on the military faction’s side. Long Feiye’s first query had already given diffiulties to the dozen-men delegation.
He didn’t press them, but waited patiently.
Ning Nuo and the head elder exchanged a few looks before he replied, “My elder brother isn’t here, so the Di Clan is naturally under Myriad Merchant Hall’s head elder’s leadership.”
“Who’s the leader of the Council of Elders?” Long Feiye asked next.
“This one!” Head Elder promptly replied. In front of outsiders, he had to preserve the authority of the Council of Elders as their leader. Although others might have objections, none of them dared to voice it here. Everyone figured that once the meeting began, they’d all have a chance to chime in.
Ning Nuo was about to ask why none of the Baili Army members had shown up when Long Feiye declared coldly, “Everyone else should get out!” Rather than chasing them off, it sounded like an order.
Ning Nuo gave a start, while the rest of the men behind him were all caught off guard. For a second, they couldn’t process Long Feiye’s words. But soon enough, the awkward situation ruffled their feathers.
Deputy General Xue was the first to rise to his feet. “East Qin crown prince, do you sincerely wish to ally with our Di Clan troops?”
“What right do you have to talk alliances with this crown prince?” Long Feiye retorted coldly.
Deputy General Xue’s heart gave a lurch as he realized his own status. Long Feiye was the crown prince of East Qin and its dictator while he was merely a deputy general of the Di Clan army. He really had no right to discuss terms with the man. Actually, he wasn’t striving to speak with Long Feiye on equal terms in the first place. He was originally aiming for the Baili Army, but Heaven knows why they hadn’t shown up yet. Stuck in the middle, Deputy General Xue stood embarrassed until Ning Nuo quickly gave him a platform to gracefully retreat.
“Deputy General Xue, you cannot be rude,” said Ning Nuo.
With those words, Deputy General Xue quickly backed off. Long Feiye’s words showed the Di Clan their difference in statuses and left them all uncertain. Just how was Long Feiye planning today’s meeting? What would they discuss, and how far would they go?
Ning Nuo smoothed things over with a polite tone. “Your Highness Crown Prince, Deputy General Xue currently has plenary powers over the Ning Clan troops. He’s spent many years at Three-Way Battlefield, so he has thorough knowledge of its pass. Since we’re discussing military matters today, many affairs will need him and General Baili to talk over together.”
“Details like that can be left for the military to discuss between themselves,” Long Feiye said coldly.
Now everyone knew. Long Feiye wasn’t going to talk about details of the alliance here, but simply treat it as a meeting between the rulers of both sides. Although they felt dissatisfied, the various elders and deputy generals all withdrew to wait outside. They knew they didn’t have the status to speak with Long Feiye and could only wait for the results. After both masters finish speaking, the Baili Army and Kangan Private Bank members should be showing their faces. With time so tight, they needed time to flesh out a plan before setting out as soon as possible.
Now the Di Clan side of the room was reduced to Ning Nuo and Myriad Merchant Hall’s head elder, along with Gu Beiyue and Gu Qishao. Gu Beiyue was as calm and unruffled as ever, while Gu Qishao’s interest had waned perceptively. With everyone gone, there was no argument to watch. He had to face the reality that not everyone held the right or power to quibble with Long Feiye in the first place.
Finally, Long Feiye called for tea. Ning Nuo and the head elder didn’t speak first, wondering what Long Feiye could want to discuss. Long Feiye didn’t dawdle and came straight to the point.
“The punitive expedition to the north will be delayed until three months later. What do you two think?”
Both Ning Nuo and the head elder were stunned. Without preamble, Ning Nuo roared, “Long Feiye, what do you mean by this?”
Meanwhile, the head elder sent Han Yunxi a questioning look. Ning Cheng and Ning Jing were both waiting to be rescued, so the delay would only complicate things. They had even agreed to go first thing come spring, so why was there a sudden change?
“There’s been massive snowstorms this year. Within Northern Li, enough blizzards have passed to threaten snow disasters. If that happens, the coming spring will have poor temperatures. If we move rashly, we may be trapped within Northern Li by too many variable factors.” Long Feiye’s expression was stern, perfectly hiding how much internal conflict he had suffered to make this choice.
“Judging from today’s climate, this old man’s years of experience can tell that no snow disasters will occur!” Head Elder rejected immediately.
“Even so, the beginning of spring is when the ice and snow melt. It’ll not only make travel difficult, but leave a chill in the air. It’s hard enough to move an army under these circumstances, as you two should well know,” Han Yunxi spoke up.
“Princess, my big brother and Ning Jing’s life are in danger. An extra day of delay is another day in peril for them!” Ning Nuo huffed before shooting Tang Li a look. “Tang Li, aren’t you worried about my big sister? Are you going to abandon your own flesh and blood? Are you still a man or not?!”
Actually, Tang Li’s brother and sister-in-law had forbade him from coming today, but he insisted on showing his face. Cool and collected, he replied, “The big picture is more important. I believe Ning Cheng and Jing’er wouldn’t want us to take the risk.”
Weather was a huge risk, though not the biggest danger. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s failed dual cultivation was the key sticking point. They could make preparations against the worst of the weather, but not the consequences of a failed martial arts attempt. No one knew what might happen to the pair as a result. If anything happened to them before the northern expedition, then the world would fall into chaos as the dragons lost their heads. Of course, such risks weren’t something Tang Li would ever tell Ning Nuo or the rest.
“Bullsh*t!” Ning Nuo exploded.
Tang Li remained calm and didn’t answer. Head Elder knew he couldn’t convince Long Feiye, so he tried appealing towards Han Yunxi instead. “Princess, Mu Linger is in Jun Yixie’s hands too.” He wanted to use that to convince her, but Han Yunxi ended up coaxing him instead.
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Yep, we're still going guys..plenty more to come yanno, even if I'm slowpoke~ ;)