Ning Cheng took Gu Beiyue’s hand. lAthough he didn’t speak, Gu Beiyue understood him and looked at him with a slight smile. Seeing this, Ning Cheng grinned as well.
“Heheh, Gu Beiyue!”
Ning Cheng had been taught about the existence of the Shadow Clan since he was old enough to understand things. He had seen this fellow a few years back when the Di and Nether Clans were still allies. How could he know that the Nether Clan’s hostage was the Shadow Clan descendant he’d been searching so desperately for over the years?
Now, without even saying anything, he knew that Gu Beiyue was the one to save him from the explosions. Without Gu Beiyue’s shadow arts, there was probably no one else in the world who could’ve managed it that night!
“Gu Beiyue...Gu Beiyue...so it was you! Haha!” Although laughing aggravated his wounds, Ning Cheng still laughed out loud.
Gu Beiyue’s smile turned wry. If he had known the Di Clan was so loyal in the past, they never would have had so many misunderstandings. Ning Cheng grinned and tried to get off the bed, but Gu Beiyue quickly stopped him.
“Ning Clan Head, you’re still injured. It’s better not to move from bed for the next few days.”
Ning Cheng grew serious and insisted on climbing off. Assuming that he wanted to see the princess, Gu Beiyue could only move to support him.
“You cannot!” Ning Cheng wouldn’t allow it as he stubbornly sat up. Without any support, he simply placed his feet on the ground and stood up steadily. Despite coming from a merchant background, he was more like a military man. He cupped his fists at Gu Beiyue in salute.
Surprised, Gu Beiyue came over to help him. “Ning Clan Head, what is the meaning of this?”
“Back at the battle with Western Zhou, I was blind. Ning Cheng represents all of the Di Clan to apologize to the Gu Clan!” Ning Cheng said openly.
Gu Beiyue smiled helplessly. “Since we weren’t acquainted with each other back them, why all this formality? It was a misunderstanding on both sides--haven’t I misunderstood Ning Clan Head as well?”
He released Ning Cheng to back away and cup his fists in turn, giving him a salute as well. Both of them exchanged looks with soft smiles.
A smile from a gentleman could absolve debts of gratitude or duty to avenge. Both of them were upright, proper men with no grudges to speak of against each other. Any simple misunderstandings could be dissolved with one grin.
“Ning Clan Head, I am but one man with no family or clan. You may simply call me Beiyue,” Gu Beiyue intoned.
That made Ning Cheng give a start. Before he could ask, Gu Beiyue held up a hand. “As long as the princess is here, so will the Shadow Clan.”
Was there anything else to ask after that? This was why Ning Cheng had persisted for searching for the Shadow Clan for so long and trusted them intuitively.
“Beiyue, if you don’t mind, my Di Clan can just be like your Shadow Clan! You can just call me Ning Cheng,” Ning Cheng said.
“Ning Clan Head is being polite, we’re all one family,” Gu Beiyue still didn’t change his tune, smiling gently despite being a crafty fox. His words were full of meaning, but Ning Cheng couldn’t probe them now. When peace reigned over the land, he would be able to understand him fully.
“Are princess and the others well?” he suddenly recalled the major point.
“Everyone’s fine, may Ning Clan Head be at ease,” Gu Beiyue immediately told him about Jun Yixie’s death and the current situation in Northern Li. Of course, he also revealed how Jun Yixie had been poisoning him into a Poison Human. Ning Cheng could only gnash his teeth in angry, but it was already too late to seek revenge against Jun Yixie personally.
“His Highness and the princess are both waiting for you to wake. This one should order someone to inform them,” Gu Beiyue said.
Seeing Ning Cheng nod, Gu Beiyue ordered a shadow guard to do the deed.
It had been nearly a year since the incident at Blacktower. Ning Cheng remembered his last glance at her had already been from one eye before they parted. Now he sat on the bed with eyes hooded, waiting in silence. Seeing this, Gu Beiyue withdrew to sit on the sides.
Very soon, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi arrived. Gu Beiyue and Ning Cheng rose as soon as she entered. However, while Gu Beiyue only nodded, Ning Cheng cupped his fists and declared, “Your subordinate Ning Cheng greets princess!”
Han Yunxi stood by the door and felt mixed feelings in her heart. Who could have seen them return to this step after circling around for so long? She arched a brow at him and said coldly, “Raise your head.”
Ning Cheng did as he was told, staring forward placidly. Han Yunxi carefully looked at his eyes and saw a dull pupil in one while the other glittered darkly with a profound, sharp air. It was an eye that could see through everything in the world and all the clamor of human hearts.
“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Han Yunxi declared.
“Your subordinate knows!” Ning Cheng suddenly fell to his knees and said respectfully, “Fortunately, there is still one eye that can be punished. This subordinate was grossly disrespectful to the princess, may princess mete punishment!”
Long ago, he had said that he’d pay her back for his first act of disrespect. Han Yunxi remembered as well and was waiting for him to ask for punishment, but never thought he’d offer up his remaining eye.
Wouldn’t he be useless with both eyes blinded?
She could admit, she hated Ning Cheng to death for his violation and wanted to poison both of his eyes blind. Even now, her heart was still fuming over her treatment. But as the West Qin Princess and Ning Cheng’s master, she couldn’t bear to do it, nor could she treat a subordinate who had given up so much for West Qin, so cruelly. If she wanted to cripple him, why rescue him in the first place?
As a princess, she had all too many ways to punish him severely. But this matter not only concerned her identity as princess, but another man---her husband and his feelings and face. In the end, Han Yunxi looked towards Long Feiye, only to see him expressionless and mute. She understood that this was no time to let private affairs interfere with public duty.
In a cold voice, she said, “Ning Cheng, listen up. Will you accept it if I revoke the Di Clan’s rank as nobles?”
Even Gu Beiyue and Long Feiye were taken aback by her words, but Ning Cheng nodded without hesitation. “This subordinate accepts it wholeheartedly!”
Han Yunxi then declared, “If your Ning Clan troops renders extraordinary service in the northern expedition again, this princess shall confer upon you the title of ‘king!’”
Get rid of the Di Clan’s noble rank, but make him a king? Han Yunxi’s move was certainly impressive! Perhaps in her eyes, Ning Cheng getting blinded was already punishment enough. Now she was seizing the opportunity to remove the Di Clan’s noble rank while still drawing them to her side.
This was a secret sign to the Di, Bai, and Nether Clans, as well as the rest of the world. In the future, there would be no East and West Qin, much less the Seven Noble Families. Cloud Realm Continent would only have one royal dynasty and a single kingdom!
Long Feiye’s lips quirked up into a smile. The woman he fancied wasn’t simple. Although these West Qin matters had nothing to do with him, he would settle his own accounts with Ning Cheng one day.
Ning Cheng was an intelligent man. As the princess had promised such a thing, his Di Clan would definitely have its proper standing in the future kingdom. He kowtowed to the ground and said, “My thanks to princess for your grace!”
“Get up now, hurry and treat your wounds. Your clan almost went up in chaos without you,” Han Yunxi said icily.
Despite her chilly face, her heart was warm. As soon as Ning Cheng laid back on the bed, she went to take his pulse and check on the state of poisons inside his body while asking Gu Beiyue about his injuries.
“You were obviously poisoned, so why didn’t you tell us? Courting death?” Han Yunxi asked.
“This subordinate assumed Ning Jing told you?” Ning Cheng replied respectfully. His attitude right now was a carbon copy of Gu Beiyue’s. Han Yunxi was very unused to it, but she wasn’t as polite to him as she was to Gu Beiyue. If Ning Cheng wanted to be so respectfully, she’d just let him do as he pleased.
Han Yunxi would never know that the reason Ning Cheng didn’t mention his poison was because he was planning to die together with Jun Yixie. He never wanted her to risk herself on a rescue mission.
Seeing Ning Cheng more or less alright, Han Yunxi went to sit on one side. Throughout the entire process, Long Feiye only stood nearby without making a sound.
“What are Jin Zi’s origins?” Han Yunxi asked.
Ning Cheng had personally witnessed Jin Zi’s white tiger taming skills at the faceoff at Tiger’s Prison. Gu Beiyue had also told him the whole story beforehand, leaving him astounded.
“He was a slave bought from traders from East Wu. Back then he was very young and didn’t have any idenfication papers on him,” Ning Cheng mused, then added, “Although there is one clue worth investigating.”
“What is it?” Han Yunxi thrilled.
“He didn’t have anything on him, so it’s possible they took his things. If the slave traders back then were found, we might be able to unearth some leads,” Ning Cheng stated.
But this was a prickly problem. Slave traders weren’t the first to handle the slaves, which were traded between hands. After all this time, it’d be a difficult task to track down all the specific people. Moreover, these traders had sold so many people over past couple of decades that it’d be even harder to make them remember all those details. Still, this was their only way.
Han Yunxi immediately ordered subordinates to gather data from Myriad Merchant Hall and begin the investigation. At the same time, she spread word that Ning Cheng was awake.
Hesitant, Ning Cheng finally chose to speak. “Princess, that Jin Zi...he’s not a bad man at heart! I fear he only kidnapped Ning Jing and the rest because he had no other choice. Back then, it was this subordinate who promised to give him back his indenture agreement.”
If Ning Cheng hadn’t mentioned it, everyone would have forgotten than by now. Still, no matter who was right or wrong, forced or helpless, holding good intentions or bad, Han Yunxi only cared about two things.
One, just what had happened between Manager Jin and Mu Linger? Why was she so insistent on marrying him? Han Yunxi refused to believe that she’d given up her affections towards Gu Qishao. Mu Linger had once said she’d chase him for a lifetime until Qi gege was too old to run anymore, then stay by his side. If nothing else had happened in between, she would never give up on her promise.
Two, Manager Jin’s origins. Suppose he really was a direct bloodline descendant of the Black Clan? Even if he had no control over the Black Clan, Jun Yixie’s old cohorts would track him down after he was released.
Faced with a stranger they didn’t know, Han Yunxi wouldn’t take risks, much less gamble her little sister’s future on him.
“Ning Cheng, nurture your wounds well. When the Ning Clan troops arrive, the command over the northern expedition will be put into your hands. We still have things to do!” Han Yunxi said seriously.
Ning Cheng knew she was talking about saving Ning Jing. He finally looked towards Long Feiye and said, “Princess, Your Highness, don’t worry. This subordinate definitely won’t let you down!”
With that settled, Ning Cheng was due to rest. He had just woken up, after all. Han Yunxi rose to leave, but Long Feiye didn’t budge from his seat…
I love how everyone is standing up for Jin Zi, wootwoot! Also, Ning Cheng continues to be awesome and cool through his own efforts despite all his character flaws, hurhur. I've put us in a new story arc since 1091 and really enjoy these chapters so far. Characters that make sense, steady plot development, and logical reactions! Please keep this up, author!
P.S. Want a chance to win a free ebook? Then check out volare's latest giveaway for Doomed to Be Cannon Fodder, a fluffy and comedic transmigration-by-cactus novel partially translated by yours truly! ^-^