Tang Li stood rooted to the spot, his face wreathed by the light of the roaring flames as Su Xiaoyu’s sobs echoed in his ears.
Big sis Ning fell into the pit, she fell in…
He wanted to try one more time to calm down, but those cries and that name seem to burrow into his head, ensnaring his eyes, his ears, and his heart.
Big sis Ning fell in…
Everyone looked into the pit, seeing it deep and filled with flames. Who could hope to survive the drop? Han Yunxi’s eyes darted between the fire and Tang Li and had trouble accepting the truth. Her mind turned blank, and even the detox system had stopped sending her pings. It was unclear whether the distance between her and the poisoned person had gone beyond her range, or if the flames had simply burned her to ashes. She unconsciously tightened her gip on Su Xiaoyu’s hand until she was nearly crushing the girl’s fingers. But Su Xiaoyu didn’t feel any pain as she sobbed nonstop, muttering “Big sis Ning” over and over again.
Gu Qishao and Gu Beiyue were staring blankly at the flames too. They knew it wouldn’t be easy to rescue the hostages, but they never predicted this outcome!
The person was gone!
They didn’t catch a glimpse of her before she vanished from their eyes!
Gu Qishao had always been the immoral and careless type, but he suddenly felt miserable when looking at Tang Li. He didn’t want to stare any longer and walked to the side to settle into a crouch. Gu Beiyue was a doctor and used to the realities of life and death. He could show pity for every patient and helplessness for the eventuality of demise, but his heart ached to see Tang Li’s hopes dashed and his eyes dim!
Long Feiye stood with hooded eyes before walking in front of his little brother and pulling him into his arms. But unlike the past, Tang Li didn’t start sobbing into his shoulder. He remained wooden, staring at the flaming pit with vacant eyes. He was trying his best to recall the last time he’d seen Ning Jing. What did she look like? What was she wearing? How did she do her hair, and what kind of things did she say? That was back in Three-Way Black Market when she was used to dressing in loose-fitting robes. She was already pregnant then, but he had no clue at all.
Back then, she said, “Someone come, cut off his left hand!”
And his last words to her were, “Ning Jing, you’ve won.”
He was forced to undo the bracelets tying them together within ten paces.
Ning Jing, if I had found out about your feelings earlier, I would never have unlocked those bracelets. Even if I lost a hand or my own life!
Tang Li thought back to the first time they met and how Ning Jing had been dressed as a man. Neither of them knew the other’s identity. He lied to her and said he was Chang Li, a disciple of Shuangqing Mountain. She’d frowned and said it was a bad name, too sentimental.
“All meetings hope to be long without ever parting,” he’d blabbed back then. “We only met by chance today in passing. There’s no telling if we’ll meet again in this lifetime, much stay long without ever parting. Miss, I shall take my leave now.”
But she’d stopped him and said, “Wait, didn’t you need to borrow a ride? Climb on! I’ll take you for a trip so we won’t have to part!”
Silent tears trickled down Tang Li’s face.
Ning Jing, if I’d known this day would come to pass, then I wish I never got on your carriage. I’d rather brush past your shoulder and miss you forever in this lifetime. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to bear the pain of parting ways.
He recalled the day he went to marry Ning Jing at Myriad Merchant Hall. He’d teased one of the servant girls outside while Ning Jing remained stubbornly shut up in her rooms. He’d blocked the door and warned, “Ouyang Ning Jing, if you don’t come out, I’ll just block up the door and refuse to leave. I, Tang Li, won’t marry anyone else except you, Ning Jing, in this lifetime!”
She had burst out of the doors without even remembering to put on her wedding veil. This was the first time she’d met anyone in women’s robes with her hair done up, her brows painted, and a broad forehead and bright eyes over a pair of deep crimson lips. As luminous as the spring, as beautiful as the harvest moon, she’d been a feast for the eyes!
He’d been floored by the sight as he realized she was absolutely beautiful.
Tears soon flooded his face, turning Long Feiye’s robes damp. He pressed against Tang Li’s nape, hoping the man could draw momentary comfort from his shoulders. But Tang Li moved his hand aside and intoned, “Let me calm down. I need some peace and quiet on my own.”
Peace and quiet...Jing Jing…
Everyone looked at Tang li while feeling wretched. But Tang Li didn’t react. He walked to the wall and crouched down, cradling his head in his hands with a mutter. “I need some peace and quiet on my own, let me calm down alone…”
There were still tears streaming down his face, but his expression looked lost and blank, a completely different person from a few minutes ago.
Han Yunxi immediately sensed something amiss and walked over to crouch in front of him. “Tang Li, what’s wrong?”
Ignoring her, Tang Li simply muttered, “I want peace and quiet...I want Jing Jing, I want to be with Jing Jing alone…”
I want peace and quiet? I want Jing Jing?
Why does he look so confused and lost?
Han Yunxi grew uneasy and glanced at Gu Beiyue, who quickly came over to take Tang Li’s pulse. But such things wouldn’t tell him anything about psychological problems! Gu Beiyue could only shake his head heavily at Han Yunxi.
Han Yunxi was on the verge of tears. She grabbed Tang Li’s hands and asked, “Tang Li, what’s the matter? Tell me, who’s Jing Jing?”
“Jing Jing?” Tang Li murmured back. “Peace and quiet? I want peace and quiet...I only want to be alone with some peace and quiet. Can you guys stop making a racket? Shhhh….”
Han Yunxi wept and turned away, but she couldn’t hold back her sobs. “Tang Li...I miss ‘peace and quiet’ too. I miss her very, very much. Tang Li, how could you not know who ‘Jing Jing’ is?”
On the side, Gu Qishao abruptly leaped to his feet and revealed the Moye sword spirit. “This old man will go slaughter that Bai Yanqing! I’m going to tear him into pieces!”
Long Feiye looked at the witless Tang Li as he clenched his hands into fists. How could he bear this unless they caught Bai Yanqing? How could he let this grievance go without revenge?
“Gu Beiyue, take Tang Li and Su Xiaoyu out first!” he said coldly.
Ning Jing was already dead, but Su Xiaoyu was back. With this, Bai Yanqing had none of their people as hostages in his hands anymore, so they didn’t need to fear him anymore!
Little Yu’er said hoarsely, “I heard the guard say Bai Yanqing would go through the exit by the cliff. They wanted to take big sis Ning and me to find him, sobsob...if I knew earlier, I wouldn’t have tried to escape! It’s all my fault! I acted on my own and overestimated my abilities!”
Nobody blamed Su Xiaoyu. Although none of them spoke, all of them were blaming themselves. If they had been a little faster, or came a little sooner, things wouldn’t have ended up like this.
“Your Highness, it won’t be easy to get out of here,” Gu Beiyue said helplessly.
Long Feiye glanced at him without replying. In the end, he walked up to the dopey Tang Li and steeled his heart, knocking him out in one blow. “Come with me, then,” he said.
Ever since entering the hive maze, he had left markings on each of the paths. Even if he forgot where he’d gone, they could lead him back to the beginning. Once they reached the start of the maze, he could get a sense of their distance from the entrance and figure out the way out of here. The hive maze had a certain regularity to it and their starting point wasn’t far from the exit. As long as they narrowed down the right direction and circled around a few times, they would be able to get out.
Gu Beiyue picked up the unconscious Tang Li while Han Yunxi held onto Su Xiaoyu as the group followed Long Feiye back to the stone room. Han Yunxi recalled Fourth Young Miss Ren and added, “Wait, I’ll go find Fourth Young Miss Ren. Beiyue, you should take her out with you.”
Han Yunxi was also detail-oriented, so she’d left her own markings after poisoning Fourth Young Miss Ren. She traced them back until her detox system began to give out pings. By the time they found Fourth Young Miss Ren, her eyes were red and puffy as a rabbit’s from crying. As soon as she saw Han Yunxi, she nearly screamed for joy.
“Shhhh….” Han Yunxi quickly fed her an antidote and muffled her mouth.
Bai Yanqing should have gone to the lower levels of the maze to track down the exit from the cliff. No matter where he was now, they couldn’t reveal their whereabouts. It was paramount to get the hostages out of here. Fourth Young Miss Ren immediately nodded and promised she’d be quiet to avoid attracting enemies. As soon as she emerged from her hiding spot, she saw Gu Beiyue.
“Academy Head Beiyue!” she was thrilled.
Gu Beiyue was calm as ever as he nodded back. “You’ve worked hard,” he said.
He was always like this, acting polite while distancing himself from others. Leaving aside Fourth Young Miss Ren, there were plenty of other females in Medical City who adored this young man both openly and in private. Still, none of them dared to go too far, much less get close to him. He was like some lofty deity of a tall snow mountain, only to be admired from afar. Their hearts were satisfied with knowing he was in Medical City itself.
“Gu Qishao, you should accompany them. Yunxi and I will track down Bai Yanqing first and send a signal flare. You can all find us that way,” Long Feiye said.
Gu Qishao and Gu Beiyue would be enough manpower to get out the three others, while Long Feiye and Han Yunxi faced off Bai Yanqing unimpeded! Long Feiye gave Gu Beiyue a compass and instructed, “Go straight from this path and you’ll see a marking on each of the succeeding tunnels. Go down the tunnels with markings next to them until you reach a place with no more markings, then head west. Every single clearing in the maze has three possible paths including the one you use to enter the clearing. That means there’s only two choices per clearing.
“After you head west, take the right tunnel for the first clearing, the left tunnel for the second...anyways, after alternating left and right, you’ll reach the exit soon enough. Otherwise, leave your own markings so you can retrace your routes. Then go left in the first clearing, right at the second, reversing directions until you find the exit…”
Long Feiye gave multiple suggestions that left Gu Qishao lost in a fog, but Gu Beiyue understood them at once.
“Alright. Your Highness, princess, be careful. Qishao and I will be back before long!” Gu Beiyue declared.
Thus, the group split into two, one heading west, one heading east…
Tang Li, we'll miss you...