So speaking, Baii Yanqing tossed his sleeves and stalked off while Su Xiaoyu’s taut expression finally relaxed. She had no idea about the details of the punitive expedition to the north, much less that Manager Jin didn’t really count as their ally. In her mind, Mu Linger had already escaped, so she would definitely bring back reinforcements. She only had to pray for them to arrive in time so she and Ning Jing didn’t suffer in vain.
On this day, Su Xiaoyu fed Ning Jing medicine three times. At night, she finally regained consciousness. Her first reaction upon seeing Su Xiaoyu was to smile, but with her two front teeth gone, she didn’t look as pretty as the past. Sensing her missing incisors, she touched the gaps and mocked herself, “I’ve lost the baby and my teeth. Will the child’s father refuse to acknowledge me after this?”
“It’s already ten thousand fortunes that you’ve preserved your life,” Su Xiaoyu was ever pragmatic.
Ning Jing grinned. She liked hearing those words. As she prepared to sit up, Su Xiaoyu hastened to help and lowered her voice. “Watch what you say, be careful of the walls having ears.”
“What I know, Miss Jing,” Su Xiaoyu continued in an even softer tone, “Is that we have only half a month left. If my master comes, we’ll live. Otherwise, we...it’s hard to say.”
Ning Jing’s eyes flashed with a complicated expression before she murmured back, “Don’t worry, they’ll definitely come.” She instantly told Su Xiaoyu about the fine details of the northern expedition. Although Su Xiaoyu had heard it once from Mu Linger and Ning Jing in the past, she didn’t understand it all. Now the detailed explanation made her knowledgeable from head to tail.
Lowering her voice even further, Su Xiaoyu said seriously, “Miss Jing, you really don’t...look attractive like this.”
Ning Jing gave a start. Just what did she look like now with her two front teeth missing?
Quickly, Su Xiaoyu amended, “Miss Jing, no matter what, let’s make sure to pull out all of Bai Yanqing’s teeth if he falls into our hands someday. How’s that?”
Ning Jing had no idea where Su Xiaoyu’s sense of amusement came from, but her words made her anticipate their future revenge too. She muttered back, “Pulling out all his teeth is making things too easy for him. I won’t pry them out, but drill them out! I’ll have Tang Li make me a special little drill and bore all of his teeth clean!”
Su Xiaoyu felt all of her teeth hurt at the idea. Pulling teeth was just a moment of pain, but drilling into them was both ache and agony. How long would it take to clear out the insides of two teeth? Even someone as vicious as her couldn’t help drawing in a sharp breath. “Miss Jing, then that’s how it’ll be! No matter what, we can’t die!”
“Alright!” Ning Jing nodded empathetically. She couldn’t die--for the sake of revenge, for Tang Li, and the young daughter in swaddling clothes who still didn’t know about her father or mother.
Su Xiaoyu thought of something else and muttered, “Miss Jing, what was the agreement between your big brother and Bai Yuqiao? How could she betray Jun Yixie and join our side? She even gave up her life!”
Ning Jing had witnessed Bai Yuqiao’s tragic death as well. She too, saw the misery and reluctance in Bai Yuqiao’s eyes before she died. She assumed that Bai Yuqiao would acknowledge her little sister Su Xiaoyu, but in the end she took the secret to the grave.
Since Bai Yuqiao didn’t tell her or even begged Su Xiaoyu for forgiveness, how could Ning Jing say anything more? Some lies would turn into eternal enigmas with that person’s passing. No matter whether this was right or wrong, it was more important to them that the survivors didn’t cry, shed tears, or regret their passing.
Even if Bai Yuqiao was gone forever, Su Xiaoyu still had her family. Ning Jing counted as one, as well as Mu Linger and definitely Han Yunxi.
“I’m puzzled too. I think only Ning Cheng knows,” Ning Jing sighed lightly. “But I’m not sure whether we’ll get to see him again.”
They had already left Tiger’s Prison, so how could Jun Yixie give Ning Cheng an easy time? As for Manager Jin, they had been too rushed for Ning Jing to know whether he saved them for good intentions or other motives. Her only comfort was that Mu Linger and the baby were in his hands. That was a hundred times better than being stuck with Bai Yanqing. At least, Manager Jin would find Han Yunxi and the rest if just to get his indenture agreement.
It was the middle of the third lunar month, which meant the peach blossoms in the mountains were beginning to shed their petals. Was the punitive expedition to the north about to begin? Would Han Yunxi and the rest come? And Tang Li as well? How were they supposed to pass Jun Yixie’s extensive array of traps and Bai Yanqing’s sinister schemes?
After Ning Jing pushed the question of Bai Yuqiao onto Ning Cheng’s shoulders, Su Xiaoyu stopped asking for more information... While they were waiting, Manager Jin and Mu Linger were waiting as well. So were Jun Yixie and Bai Yanqing!
Meanwhile, Han Yunxi’s group had already arrived at Three-Way Black Market. When they reached East Origin Hall, Gu Qishao received a letter from the Medical Hut. He glanced at the contents before laughing out loud. “Poison lass, that matter’s done! Have Xu Donglin bring the man over!”
For the past few days, Xu Donglin had been occupied with tracking down Ye Xiao the blacksmith. Ye Xiao was extremely willing to help out Han Yunxi, so Xu Donglin told him to head for Medical City and wait there in secret. Somehow, Gu Qishao had written to Pill Furnace Master along the way, so this must be the reply with Pill Furnace Master’s agreement to let them use the Earthly Fire Kun Furnace to forge a sword.
“That’s a great meritorious service in your name!” Han Yunxi remarked.
Although this was good news, Han Yunxi couldn’t bring herself to feel any happier. Both she and Long Feiye had taken this trip to Three-Way Black Market with heavy hearts. That was because the situation at Tiger’s Prison didn’t look optimistic.
“Where’s Tang Li?” Long Feiye asked coldly as soon as he entered the door.
“Your Highness, the Tang Clan Head has lost control over his emotions for the past few days, so we subordinates took matters into our own hands and locked him in his room. May Your Highness mete punishment!” a shadow guard reported.
Long Feiye strode to the back courtyard without another word with Han Yunxi chasing after him. They had just reached the entrance when they heard someone pounding on a door. By the time they entered the yard, they saw “十”-shaped boards nailed over all the doors and windows.
“Let me out! I’m begging you all, let me out!”
“I want to save Ning Jing! I want to save my child! All of you let me out!”
Hearing Tang Li’s begging made Long Feiye halt his steps. He turned to look away, his handsome brows creased into a line. Han Yunxi stopped as well, her heart seizing up. Gu Qishao leaned against the courtyard gate while staring at the boarded up windows. Although he didn’t feel as miserable as Long Feiye or Han Yunxi, he wasn’t as carefree as usual. Even someone as calm as Gu Beiyue could only sigh helplessly. As he prepared to walk over, Long Feiye coldly ordered, “Open the doors and let him out!”
The shadow guard did as told and Tang Li rushed outside. His eyes were swollen, his hair was a mess and his chin scruffy with the signs of a beard. At a glance, he looked every inch a madman. At the sight of Long Feiye, he gave a start, then threw himself at him. However, Long Feiye extended a hand to keep him at arm’s length before scolding, “You’re already going to be a father, but you still look like this?”
Tang Li was torn before wanting to rage or cry. He hollered back, “Big bro, we’ve lost contact with Tiger’s Prison! Lost contact!”
“I know!” Long Feiye shouted back. “I’ll give you enough time to brew a cup of tea to clean up your face and feelings. Come with me with negotiate with the Di Clan, then we’ll set off to rescue the hostages!”
“Big bro, Ning Jing and the rest…” Tang Li wanted to go on, but Long Feiye cut him off.
“I’ll be waiting for you right here. I won’t wait if you’re late!”
Tang Li started before turning back to run into the rooms! Once he was gone, silence settled upon the courtyard. Although their surroundings were quiet, all of them knew that their battles would began today! No matter what Jun Yixie had prepared for them, they could only win, not lose!
Tang Li was finished before the time limit, his beard cleanly shaved and his hair secured high above his head with a simple hair tie. He was now dressed in a set of ashen gray robes suitable for martial arts--the kind with tight, collared sleeves and pants that allowed for easy movement. Although his complexion looked wan and sallow and his eyes still puffy, the light shining from his pupils more than made up for the losses. He seemed both energetic and lively.
At last, they were going to save Jing Jing and the child. He had to give 120%!
To Long Feiye, he loudly proclaimed, “Big bro, I’m ready!”
Tang Li’s high spirits roused the heavy hearts of the rest.
“Then let’s go!” Long Feiye didn’t have them rest, but headed straight for Myriad Merchant Hall. During the entire trip, they had been exchanged letters and finalizing deployments for the East Qin Army here. Baili Yuanlong and a few deputy generals had arrived three days early and had already discussed alliance details with the Di Clan troops twice. Though they could manage the fine details, the bigger picture was a source of contention.
Ning Nuo had received news and knew to expect Long Feiye’s group at the market tonight, but never thought he and Han Yunxi would come to Myriad Merchant Hall as soon as they arrived. He was almost at a loss for what to do as he invited the group to wait at the guest hall while hurrying off to gather the merchant hall’s Council of Elders and the representatives from Cloud Realm Trade Consortium and the military.
Han Yunxi stopped him and asked coldly, “Ning Nuo, didn’t you waste enough time last time? Are you going to do that again?”
Before Ning Nuo could reply, Long Feiye struck the table with a loud slap. “If the Di Clan has no plans to cooperate, then forget it! My East Qin Army isn’t incapable of taking down a paltry Northern Li!”
Now Ning Nuo panicked. “Your Highness Crown Prince, my big brother and sister are both in Jun Yixie’s hands. How could I not panic? Let’s talk it over nicely if there’s anything to say!”
Judging from the current situation in Northern Li, it was very possible for the East Qin Army to clear them all in one fell swoop. Moreover, the Di Clan didn’t have anyone who could help out with the Tiger Prison’s side! Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had invited Myriad Merchant Hall to participate in the past, not to give the Di Clan face, but Ning cheng. They were also striving to maintain the first ever alliance between East and West Qin forces.
“Are there any objections to the Ning Clan troops taking the front lines for the Three-Way Pass?” Long Feiye got straight to the point. This was the first major source of contention in the talks between the two armies.
The Three-Way Pass was a major pass between Northern Li, Tianning, and Western Zhou. The Northern Li army had always maintained control of the area because north of the pass was their territory. Beyond it to the south was the Three-Way Battlefield, a no-man’s zone for the three nations. West of the Three-Way Battlefield was Western Zhou, while east of it laid Tianning territory.
The Three-Way Pass was easily guarded and hard to attack. Thus, historic wars between the three nations had always given Northern Li the advantage as long as they released their cavalry forces from beyond the pass. The horsemen could attack the flat plains immediately south without obstacle to threaten either west or east, while the reverse was far more difficult. A flat plain was hard to guard; moreover, the danger of overtaking Three-Way Pass were hard to surmount.
All historical accounts of battles to take the Three-Way Pass had all ended in failure for Tianning and Western Zhou.
Baili Yuanlong was honest and kind enough to join forces with the Ning Clan troops to attack the pass. However, the Ning Clan Troop’s Deputy General Xue insisted on the Baili Army attacking Three-Way Pass. He even said…